By Amy K. Hooper
Amy K. Hooper, WildBird Editor
The summer’s longer hours of daylight make me scheme about more ways to enjoy the season and the natural wonders nearby. When light comes through the window about 5:30 a.m., my eyes pop open.
Lately, I use that earlier-than-usual wake-up to pop down to Huntington State Beach, just 10 minutes from my apartment in Southern California. My preferred parking spot hugs the Santa Ana River, which hugs a nesting sanctuary for endangered California Least Terns. The volume level makes these delicate-looking seabirds immediately obvious to surfers and beachwalkers. As the river empties into the incoming ocean waves, the terns swoop and plunge-dive for fish. I like Pete Dunne’s description of them as “easily piqued beach pixies” in his Essential Field Guide Companion.
Walking west with waves occasionally washing over my toes, I get to watch Willets and Marbled Godwits wheel about and probe in the just-washed sand for food. Various gulls – California, Western, Ring-billed, Heermann’s – decorate the air, the berm and the wetter sand.
My favorite aerial beachgoers, though, are Brown Pelicans and Black Skimmers. The pelicans often glide just above the water, out past the waves and the wetsuited surfers on their water-carving boards. Sometimes I get to see a flapping pelican suddenly stoop in a dramatic plunge-dive, and then I feel jealous of the surfers who enjoyed a much closer view of the action.
One day, seven Black Skimmers flew overhead – first four, then three. That felt like a very lucky day. The birds didn’t fly low enough to stick their lower mandibles into the water, in hopes of snagging fish, but they still impressed me with their strong wingbeats and sleek looks.
These early-morning 30-minute walks impress upon me how easy it can be to enjoy nature and birds if we make little changes in our routines. It’s only recently that I began climbing into the car before 6 a.m. to flash my annual state park pass at the sleepy-eyed attendants at the beach’s Magnolia Street entrance.
What adjustments can you make in your routine to include more birds in your days? Can you include someone in those endeavors and share the fun? Think of it as enlisting another advocate for the birds.