dragoness_e: NASA F-15A #837 (NASA Starscream)
[personal profile] dragoness_e
Sunday, August 5, I drove out to the beach. That's actually a bit more adventurous than it sounds; from San Jose, the shortest road to, say, Half Moon Bay, is one of those winding mountain roads. Fortunately 92 is a bit wider and shorter than 9 was.

The weather in San Jose, down in the valley between the two mountain ranges, was bright, sunny and windy. As I drove west, toward the coastal mountains, I could see clouds clinging to the mountain tops. Fairly soon, I was up among those clouds. I stopped at a vista point to take pictures--it was really cold and windy among those clouds! Fortunately I'd packed along some long pants and a warmer shirt, in case it was cool and windy at the beach, so I threw a heavy t-shirt on atop the sleeveless summer shirt I was wearing.

Mountains. With Clouds

Drove through the town of Half Moon Bay, which is a quaint little historical-touristy place like Boulder City (over by Big Basin, from 2 weeks ago). Finally found my way to one of the state park beaches a bit up 1. It was still cold and gray and windy, and it began to drizzle lightly. I nipped into the restroom and changed into my blue jeans; it definitely wasn't shorts weather.

Beach. With Clouds

On my way to the restroom, I met a couple walking a lovely pair of Alaskan Malamutes. The dogs and the owners were very friendly, in the way of Malamutes and their owners, and were happy to let me pet and fuss over their beautiful dogs. Unfortunately, I did not think to get a picture of them.

On the way to the beach, above the cliffs, there's quite an assortment of seashore plants. There's some succulent (NB: Now identified as Sea Fig) that grows all over California beaches--I remember seeing it down by Camp Pendleton--and there are lots of interesting little flowers. The beach proper is below low cliffs (here; further south, the cliffs can be quite high), and you get down to it by way of cuts or gullies in the cliffs.

Sea Fig (Carpobrotus chilense)

Down on the beach were a few die-hard picnickers and someone walking their dog. Otherwise, it was just me, the wind, the sand, the sea and a jillion birds.

Kelp washed up

I saw seagulls of several types, terns, ravens, little bitty shorebirds, bigger long-billed shorebirds, grackles, and pelicans. For some reason the pelicans surprised me the most, even more than the ravens.

There were these little bitty birds that ran in a flock; as a wave receded, they would rush out and stab in the water with their bills. When the next wave came in, they'd all rush back out of the way. It was funny, watching the little flock of birds slosh back and forth.

Juvenile Sanderlings (Calidris alba)

Also near those birds was a larger bird, who just ran along the wet sand at the edge of the wave line and poked in the sand with his long bill.

Unidentified bird -- godwit or avocet or ?

There were large gatherings of seagulls on the beach, adults and juveniles. Those large gatherings of gulls are quite, er, aromatic on the downwind side. The odor of seagull guano is a little more raw nature than I care for.

Seagull rookery

The ravens were wandering around the edge of these rookeries, and sometimes just randomly standing around by themselves far down the beach, or up on the cliffs. Why were there ravens at the beach? These were definitely ravens--seagull-sized, shaggy necked, heavy billed--not crows. I never thought of ravens as a shorebird. I later learned from a local bookstore clerk that the ravens hunt newly hatched baby seagulls.

Twa corbies innocently hanging out among seagulls

Raven strut!

"Just a-walkin' down the beach, singing do-wa-diddy..."

There was a slough that ran down to the beach and made a small pond back of the dunes; it was full of seagulls and terns splashing in the freshwater, bathing themselves. Ravens and blackbirds hung around the edge of the pond, occasionally getting a drink. The pond's outlet ran along the cliff bottom for a piece, then just sort of drained away into the sand, never quite making it to the sea.

Seagull bathing pond

After following the disappearing slough to the end, I realized I was quite tired from walking on loose sand that far, and started looking for a way off the beach. On the way I ran into two ravens standing around, and chased them a bit trying to get good pictures. Unfortunately, there were no paths up the cliffs right there, and I had to walk some way further before I found a way up. I was quite tired by the time I did so. Once up top, on firmer ground, the ache in calves receded, and I enjoyed the walk back.

While walking on the trail from the beach, I noticed quite a few people riding horses along the horses-allowed pathway some ways back from the beach. There was quite a crowd. I noticed on the road to the park that there are several riding stable places along the beach. Riding the beach trails must be quite popular.


On the way back, I ran into my two ravens up atop the cliff; unlike me, they could fly. This time I caught them up close and got pictures of them before they flew.

Twa Corbies and Beach

( Alternate raven picture )

Raven in flight

I also took quite a few pictures of wildflowers and wind-twisted trees.

One of many wildflower pictures

There was a picnic area sheltered by a grove of twisted junipers; it was quite picturesque.

Picnic-area tree

Closer to the beach, there was a very low-lying juniper, all flattened and twisted by the wind.

Beach Juniper

I met couple walking a pair of beautiful Newfoundland dogs; this time, I thought to ask for permission to take a picture of the dogs. They gave me permission.

The Newfoundlands

I finally got back to my car, ready to drive home and collapse. Correction: ready to drive to Half Moon Bay (the town, not the beach) and have lunch. I stopped at a deli I'd noted on the way out and had a felafel wrap for lunch; they did decent job. After leaving the deli, I noticed a bookstore just a few doors down, and ducked in.

This was a traditional bookstore, small, with every shelf stuffed full of books. The clerks were very helpful; I wanted a field guide to western birds, and they showed me what they had. I picked one out I liked after inspecting all of them, and now I'm going to try to identify all those birds I took pictures of.

Hopefully the library comes through with the hold on that book on California wild plants that I wanted. I'd like to know what these flowers are that I've been looking at.

Back over the mountains, through the fog... as I sped down 280 to San Jose, the clouds lifted and the sun came out, and I was back in the sunny valley again. Yay!

Sometime in the near future, I'll do a post of wildflower pictures, and a post of bird pictures.
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