22 December 2007

A cold morning on the shortest day at the highest tide.

No, I'm not about to get all loopy and new age-y on you with the onset of the winter solstice. We had an 8-foot high tide set for near precisely the time I drive past the beach on the way to my white box government office. I couldn't resist the chance to pull off and spend an hour at the start of a day wandering, not working.

Yesterday was a chilly 35° at just past 8am. It's been like that a lot of these past few mornings. A handful of killdeer met me on the silver-frosted sand as I walked from the car to the shoreline. Out in front of me, a large mass of seagulls and even a couple wintering pelicans swirled over the churning Pacific. Waves were way up yesterday morning creating a wide swath of white foam along this stretch of beach. The wind, brisk and cold, poured down from the hills.

As I approached the mouth of Redwood Creek, western sandpipers (or perhaps semipalmated sp's?) dotted the surfline, scampering in and out of the running waves. The surf came up so fast however that nearly every quick dash into the receding tide was brief, before the next wave sent them all flying off to avoid being washed over by the sea.

At the creek's mouth, a couple hundred gulls massed on the mostly dry south bank. A few more floated on the incoming tide. Unlike times past where you could see the river competing on equal footing with the ocean, this morning, at this time, the ocean was winning the battle. Wave after wave pushed into the placid estuary, raising the water level with each push.

As I walked the estuary's edges, there was a constant tinkling of small waves breaking on the shoreline. One set of waves threatened to trap me on the once-narrow sand bar that separates ocean from creek. While counting seal heads, I heard water rushing in around my feet - from both sides. What was once a dry, 100-foot wide peninsula quickly became a narrow 30-foot slip of sand as the ocean poured over the top and the estuary filled up behind me like a bathtub.

Perhaps 25 harbor seals in the estuary this morning. It's funny how they all float, near motionless, watching my every move on the beach. I can hear their breathing in the quiet morning air, the huffing and puffing of their deep breaths. At least two of the larger ones appear agitated with me. From opposite ends of the large group, these two loudly blow bubbles - like a kid with a curly straw in a tall glass of chocolate milk - and flap their tails on the water. It's hard for to understand why this morning is different than any other walk I've taken on the beach, and what has their dander up, but I choose not to linger here, anxious both to warm up and to avoid annoying them too much.

Walking back to the south slough, more incoming waves filled the channel that was dry just last week. A couple great blue herons, some coots, and a couple buffleheads paddle in the back side of the estuary.

Hasta la proxima.

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