Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Start of the Summer Season Approaches

Friday, May 27, will mark the official start of the Summer Season (and the kick-off to the 3-day Memorial Day weekend that typically ushers in that start). Even yesterday, it was chilly for this time of year and stiff breezes blew. Each day, though, you start to see a few more people on the beach, although free street parking on weekdays is still plentiful. But I expect that, come Friday, the number of people on the beach will mushroom and it will become more difficult to locate free parking in close proximity to the beach.

Another sign that the summer approaches is that there are now 2-3 lifeguard stations open each day where, just a couple weeks ago, there was only one lifeguard on duty for the entire 3-mile stretch Alma and I walk. There does not yet seem enough business to keep 3 lifeguards occupied, as the water is still very cold and few people venture into it. Still, Alma and I see quite a few surfers, especially around the Washington Blvd. pier. Just a couple days ago, we watched as high winds threatened to drive an intrepid surfer onto the rocks at the breakwater north of the Pier. A lifeguard from the station there had to rescue the surfer, a feat accomplished with a minimum of fuss and a surfeit of professionalism.

The high winds we have had here recently have taken a toll on aquatic and avian sea life. Not a day passes that we don't find at least one or two seabirds washed up dead on shore. And a couple days ago, Alma and I saw what looked to be a dead seal washed up into the surf. We felt bad but a passer by pointed out that the dead seal was a good thing for the sea gulls who were gorging themselves en masse on the seal's entrails.

A sad sight confronted us two days ago when we came across a pelican sitting stock-still in the sand, so quiet that at first I thought it was dead. Many pelicans call the Santa Monica bay home and we frequently see small groups of 5-10 flying together and dive-bombing the Pacific in pursuit of food. Pelicans can appear somewhat inelegant and comical when up close but they are highly efficient diving machines when they launch into a vertical dive into the ocean. At the Villa Marina jetty, we can usually count on seeing a group of them swimming placidly in the calm waters each day when we reach that terminus of our walk.

Alma approached this pelican and it opened its eye and rotated the eyeball to follow her approach. But it made no move to get away, clearly ill or simply winded from fighting the wind and the elements. We informed the lifeguard at the breakwater who said she had contacted Animal Control. We saw no sign of the bird yesterday while walking the same stretch, so either Animal Control rescued it, the sea re-claimed it or it re-gained its strength and flew off to join its companions. I hope it was the latter.

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