Tuesday, September 05, 2006

For the Birds

Not sure what these guys are called, but they sure look like they're celebrating something.

Can you spot the American icon in this picture?

My NASA super-enhancing Photoshop filter only delivers this much detail. It could be anything. In the sun, with my sunglasses on, I couldn't even be sure it was a bird, and not just a log with a funny shape. But it sure looked like a bird. Funny thing was, what it really looked like most, from a distance, was a log shaped (and colored) like it had a bald eagle sitting on it.

I don't remember ever seeing a bald eagle before, unless there was one at a zoo somewhere.

I pretty much shrugged and decided my eyes were playing tricks on me, but I took the picture anyhow.

Got home and looked it up online, and it turns out that bald eagles have been spotted in the Newport Back Bay for the past two years.

This is not a bald eagle. I'm no ornithologist, but I think it may be a blue heron.

Same picture, but blown out to show all his bird buddies in the reeds behind him.

Southern California gets a bad rap, sometimes deserved, for not caring about the environment. But there's a remarkable network of preserves and refuges and sanctuaries and parks integrated into the conurbation that sprawls from Malibu to Laguna, from Palos Verdes to Palm Springs. Perfect and pristine? No. I think you can see civilization from any corner of this marshland. But fertile? You bet!

A huge number of plant species grow here (this wetland is just one example of a local protected area), and if the number of birds are any indicator, I think there's a lot of life in the water and mud too. John Steinbeck's old pal Ed Ricketts kinda surprised the world of natural history with his monographs on the California and Baja California intertidal zones, pointing out that the area between salt and fresh, between wet and dry, between high tide and low tide harbored a far richer collection of life (and more interesting) than the land or the sea.

A pocket preserve like this, as well as being a sanctuary for wildlife, also puts it in the direct path of more human beings who might decide once in a while to go enjoy the real world for a while instead of watching it on TV. Yes, it's not perfect. But I'd rather see a kingfisher here than in a zoo.

As you ride along toward the end of a long day, especially when you're riding upwind, you find all kinds of reasons to stop. You need to adjust your pedals; you need to refill your water bottles (or just move them around); you need to take a picture; you need to write down your time at a waypoint instead of just remembering it until you hit a stoplight.

This is a "passive use" park in Newport Beach. No swingsets or teeter totters, and the vegetation is strictly local scrub, which in fact has been rehabilitated for the purpose of the park. (Lush, eh?) But it's got trails (along the route of the first road through the area, no less), and as you can see benches and a drinking fountain that runs hot for several seconds when you turn it on.

Lately I've been asked to take part in an advisory committee on a similar park in Long Beach, so I thought it was important to stop here and do some research.

While I was stopped, I also moved my water bottles around.


Andrew Shields said...

It's impossible to tell, of course, but the bird's wings do not really look dark enough, and the head is too vague to see the distinctive pattern there.

But if BEs have been seen in that area, it probably is one anyway!


Papa Bradstein said...

Hm. Could be a bald eagle. Could also be an osprey. Could be our flock. Could be another flock. Could be a bunch of M's.

Still pretty cool. I go with bald eagle, because you said so.

There are also bald eagles and peregrine falcons that are regularly seen around the new Wilson Bridge (there were also seen around the old one). Some have commented that it's remarkable to see them in a construction zone like that, but I think the commuters have been more bothered than the birds.