Beach Fun Only Americans Understand

As I continue North now along the Pacific Coast highway near Laguna Beach I weave closer to the beaches which ripple along hundreds of miles of Southern California coast line. Surfers, many already balding, pop to the surface unexpectedly as I gaze across the brownish murky waters. It is May but the men and a few women perched on their colorful boards are wearing wet suits. RV’s both huge and tiny line the road shoulder. This is urban camping at its finest. The owners drive a few short hours from the L.A. area and end up with free beach front camping. It doesn’t seem to matter that trucks, cars, buses and large group of weaving muffler crackling motorcycles buzz by day and night just inches your home away from home. On the other side, always present, are a crisp ocean breeze, fragrant sea life, tranquil fishing and endless opportunities to use your newly acquired digital camera.

A Least Tern

The beaches even in the southern portion of California are grayer, rougher, colder and bleaker than any in the Caribbean. In the late afternoon as the wind blows and the temperature drops I notice a strange group of cages open at the top resembling a line of beach front chicken coops. Actually, they served as a nesting reserve for the migratory bird strangely named, least tern. The little creatures fluttered and frolicked in their upscale coop enjoying, I guessed, their ancestral home. I walked on mesmerized by thoughts of these the smallest of sea birds.
I was fortunate. California least terns migrate to their ancient breeding grounds in southern California between April and August. With caution I approach their carefully now protected guarded nest. The fox is their main predator and luckily I do not see any.

The official name for this flying fellow is Sterna antillarum browni it is little averaging about 9 in (23 cm) in length but for its size has a nice 16-in (40-cm) wingspread. It has a black cap and nape, gray wings with black wingtips, orange legs, and a black-tipped orange-yellow bill. younger birds have darker plumage and a dark bill with white heads with dark eye stripes. I marvel at this lovely creature. The great irony of my walk is that construction of the fantastic Pacific Coast Highway destroyed many of the remote nesting places used by these migrating birds perhaps for thousands of years. Oh well, not good but I still enjoy the road, the beach, the sun and the glorious least tern.

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