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The Swallows of King Harbor Marina Return...So Do the Tourists!

The Swallows returned to King Harbor Marina, right on time on March 19th. They did last year too. How do I know this? Because I watch such things, and because my mother who was born on March 19th always enjoyed the fact that her birthday coincided with their return to the little Southern California spanish mission town of San Juan Capistrano. The birds fly all the way from the top of South America and Central America and come to build nests and raise young in the old mission walls.

The Capistrano Swallows were late. There were 18,000 tourists in the city waiting for their arrival. There were many merchants, resturant owners and hoteliers also waiting. If I expected that 18,000 noisy people were waiting for me after flying thousands of miles, I'd be late too.

King Harbor's Swallows

They build their nests out of mud or mud and straw depending on whether they are Cliff Swallows or Barn Swallows. I forgot which. I know the swallows here use mud and grass. Don't know about Capistrano. I'll have to consult my National Geographic Field Guide to the Pacific Coast (in storage). Get one for your area. It helps you to identify every bird, sea mammel, mollusk, flower and fish along the coast or the flora and fauna in your area. If you start to look around and see these creatures somehow surviving around you in spite of growing human encroachment, your view of the world may become less bleak as you observe their natural beauty and their adaptation to life with us around.

The swallows here in the marina build their sconce-shaped nests on the vertical faces of the main support beams of the gangways that connect our floating docks to solid ground. They happily co-exist with overhead footsteps, rolling carts, boat engines, screaming kids, barking dogs, and midnight drunken sailors. To get to their nests they must fly down under the dock, almost touching the water and pull a bottom turn up into the nest. When the tide is extremely high, the docks rise and the gangways flatten out close to the water so that they can't get to their nests. Then they must wait on our bow pulpits, with a mouthful of fresh kelp flies, listen to their young complain about being hungry and wait for the tide to drop. All the while, they chatter back and forth reassuring each other during the crisis.

They're very friendly and always turn an eye toward you and chirp as you pass by. At the beach, they swoop down the slope of the beach against the sea wind, gingerly picking flies off the kelp and sand and then quickly fly over the wall back to the marina and to their nests.

We had to do without them last summer because the concrete sea walls were being repaired, which involved days of extremely loud jackhammering. One Sparrow couple just could not survive that level of noise. I found them both dead, one next to the other in their nests. No other nests were built there and we had a very quite summer. So, we're glad new birds have taken up residence on our dock and we look forward to the first fuzzy headed young to make their 4:30 am singing debut.


The Cut of Your Jib

Keep your eyes peeled.

The road less traveled is sure to have some surprises. There, no one has already stolen natural items or has built a visitor center for nature's gems. They can still be found in the dirt and grass at the side of the road.

Winter/Spring Surf Report

Got a new 8' 6" Becker UFO longboard last fall and it seems to be just right for the small surf of spring and summer and it's pretty manageable in bigger surf too. We've had consistant 4-5 foot surf, with some 8-10 foot days all winter and most of spring (it was a mild El Nino season). We've had warm days most all of winter. Looking forward to some warm summer surf out at the PV Cove which I get out to (2.5 miles) by dinghy from the marina.

AlI winter long and into spring, dolphins feed just outside the break zone. A few times, a number of large Risso's Dolphins have come inside the line up, swimming right towards me. They dove just in front of me and surfaced on the other side about ten feet away. It's thrilling, but a bit unnerving to have them pass under me. But, they never cause any harm. Every once in a while they get crazy and surf the larger waves, pulling out by diving down through the face of the wave.

The Tourists? Oh, they'll come down to the beach on Memorial Day if the sun comes out. We usually have the typical "June gloom" pattern at this time of year. It's cold and foggy at the beach even though it's warm and sunny just five blocks inland. The tourists will leave their Mc Donald's food bags, chicken bones, beer cans, bottles, styrofoam cups and watermellon rinds on the beach (don't be like them). Just a preview of the summer to come. As soon as the first hurricane of the season moves up the coast, the first summer swells will arrive and soon the water will be warming up. Still, I prefer late fall, Winter and Spring "When the Coast is Clear" (of tourists). Pleasant Spring & Summer to you all.

Elmo - The Sailing Rat

"The future is in plastics." Elmo

Elmo, the Siamese Rat came to the end of his 4 year lifespan.  He had a wonderful life, eating the best foods and sleeping all day. On trips to Catalina Island, he went wild with excitement smelling all the wild smells when we were within a mile of the island. He slept through the trip, his cage on top of the gimbled stove, swinging with the tilt of the boat under sail. A real sailor, he was!  Now, he's probably running around Palos Verdes Cove spooking the local surfers or relaxing under his own Ponderosa Pine..

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Noel Diotte

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Secret Coves: Little Harbor


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