Plans for breakfast on Wednesday fell apart. Most of my friends decided to sleep in. That left me with three hours and a rental van. I drove the five miles to Mission Beach and parked as close to the ocean as I could. On a two- or three-mile stretch of beach, I only saw three other people, and them only briefly. There was probably a good reason for this — the wind was howling off the ocean at what had to be at 40 mph with some stronger gusts. I started walking north to get away from the two graders that were going back and forth smoothing the sand. It was probably their tires that had turned the entire expanse of beach into a waffle pattern. That’s La Jolla in the distance.
I hadn’t gone far when I noticed a flock of about 200 Sanderlings flying back and forth. They landed perhaps a quarter mile from where I’d parked, so I wandered up that way. Sanderlings can be identified by their feeding method alone. They pick at the sand right at the water’s edge. So, as the waves move up and down the beach, the birds follow, their legs moving so fast that it’s difficult to see them — up and back, up and back.
I soon noticed that this flock was doing something else too. To get out of the wind, the birds would frequently take cover behind clumps of kelp that had washed ashore. They’d stand there in bunches for a couple minutes, than head out to feed again. Sometimes there were only three or four birds behind the clumps — at other times the entire flock seemed to be seeking shelter.
I had the little red chair with me, and I set it in the sand to get some photographs. The wind knocked it over and carried it away from the water. I chased it, and that’s when I noticed the Snowy Plovers huddling in a tire track.
Not far from where they stood, there was another large flock of sandpipers crouching out of the wind. The few pale birds are Sanderlings. I think the smaller, darker ones are Western Sandpipers.
As I was driving back from Mission Beach, I passed Belmont Park, a small amusement park with an old wooden roller coaster. I parked and wandered around looking for photos, but the only ones I saw would have required jumping fences, which I am both too old and too law-abiding to do.