Thursday, October 31, 2013

Newport Beach, California

The park where our home is at present spreads out over 100 acres of private beach along Newport's scenic Back Bay.  And, as you may notice in the above picture, large sand dunes surround the bay.  Upper Newport Bay, also known as Back Bay, is the largest of only a few remaining natural estuaries in southern California.  Here saltwater from the ocean mixes with fresh water from inland sources to create a wonderful place for an abundance of wildlife including nearly 200 species of birds.  In the Upper Bay Preserve is one of the finest bird watching sites in North America.  And speaking of bird watching, I had an interesting experience with that yesterday at the preserve.  As John and I walked through the butterfly garden of the preserve, I heard a kitten-like mewing sound.  There were no cats around, the sound had to be coming from a bird.  We watched a film in the visitor's center which mentioned that the California gnatcatcher makes that particular cry.  Back outside later, when John and I were starting on a hike, I heard the cry again.  I was determined to find that bird!  Not only did I find him, but I also was fortunate that he took a minute to rest from his constant flitting in and out of the brush to pose for me.  Seconds after I snapped the picture he was gone.  While I was chasing down that bird John was enjoying the sight of ducks and egrets in the bay, fortunately he is quite patient with my birdwatching.
That small blue-grey songbird, the California gnatcatcher, is endangered.  His home is the coastal scrub land of the California chaparral, of which 90% of that land has been lost to development and wildfires.  From the Upper Bay Preserve we drove down the Pacific Coast Highway to Corona del  Mar, which is also part of Newport.
  Here we spent some time walking on the beach and exploring tide pools.  As you may notice from the picture, it is quite a rugged beach with many rocks.  We did not find much in the tide pools except for some anemones and quite a number of sea urchins- those purple creatures are in the picture below.
As I mentioned earlier, the southern coast of California is very developed and the traffic is horrendous.  So it was a pleasure today to leave our car behind and use our bikes.  We biked across a bridge in Newport, rode through Balboa Island and took the auto ferry to Balboa Peninsula.  Both places are part of Newport.  Balboa Peninsula has a boardwalk for bikes, and we soon discovered that the safest means to get through the streets to the boardwalk was by traversing the alleys.  They are paved and wide, also the backs of the houses are just as beautiful as their fronts!   Newport Beach is one of the most affluent communities of the West Coast.  The boardwalk took us past some very ritzy vacation homes, in fact I was more apt to be staring at them than enjoying the shoreline!  A lot of them had amusing Halloween decorations.  We did not cover the entire island, but at least we made it to the "Wedge", named for a large rock jetty which creates impressively high ocean waves.  It is a famous spot for body surfing, and we spent some time watching about 12 young men riding the waves.  There certainly is much more to see in this area, but we are moving out of here tomorrow to Vista,  where we will settle down for a couple of months.

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