I think it could be argued that I live in the most beautiful place on earth. (I do recognize, however, that lots and lots and lots of other place could share that argument!). We live in the mountains, in a redwood forest and I love it. But, one of the things I love most about it is our close proximity to the coast. We live near the amazing and wonderful city of Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is a beach town, a college town, an historic mission city, a hotbed of liberalism, and one of the weirdest and most wonderful cities in California. It is also beautiful. Good friends of ours are moving back here from LA. They still own a house here and were up this weekend to see what needs doing before they move back. They are hiring Greg to do some architecture for them. While they were discussing the project, I took advantage of their location on the Westside of Santa Cruz to take the kids on my favorite walk. We went out to West Cliff Drive — a two block walk from our friends’ house. Spring in coastal Santa Cruz is gorgeous!
Santa Cruz has a mix of architecture. There are historic homes: Victorians, Mission Style, Craftsman. There are modern beach houses of all white stucco, steel, and glass. There are little student/surfer beach houses. It’s a mix so walking in the neighborhoods is fun — even if the only birds you see are House Sparrows and European Starlings.
We walked by the “Spider Hedge.” It’s a HUGE hedge — like 25′ tall and 8′ thick. Cars can drive through it. Spiders love it. The kids were enthralled by watching the spiders in their tunnels.
In a perfect world, we would have driven further down West Cliff and walked to the Wharf where there are two rare birds showing up — a Brown Booby and a Horned Puffin. But, that wasn’t practical. So, we walked from our friend’s house out to West Cliff and started walking. The first bird I saw was a Lifer — a Surf Scoter. This particular bird followed us up the coast going at approximately the same speed we were going. He’s an odd duck (ha!). Funny looking bills.
This is the view looking down West Cliff Drive — see what I mean . . . GORGEOUS! This is near our starting point and you can’t see our halfway point yet. This road hugs the coast and has a wide walking path. There are always lots of runners, bikers, surfers, dog walkers, and crazy people. Santa Cruz has good and bad sides — the bad side is that our mild climate and tolerant community gives us a higher than normal amount of homeless people. In that mix, there are some that are quite disturbing. We saw a man riding a bike who was clearly in an altered state — alcohol? drugs? hard to say. Somehow the kids missed him but did see the man standing on a railing making dog noises. Ruth quietly said to me, “I think he’s crazy.” I told her he might be crazy but he might also have just been letting his weird side out. (I actually think that’s what it was as his friends were in the car laughing at him!)
The cliffs aren’t particularly safe as they are deteriorating but in places they are and the kids enjoyed going out on them to get closer to the water. I, found great comfort in knowing that should any crazy bad guys show up, I was protected by a Ninja warrior!
Look at that! One of those rare coastal Sea Labradors!
Another Lifer . . . Black Oystercatcher! How cool is this bird? Love that bill. I showed him to the kids but I didn’t have my field guide with me. A nice man sitting on the rocks watching him too told us he was an Oystercatcher! Totally cool bird!
These Willets and several more were dancing around near the Oystercatcher. I love the way they are ALMOST synchronized!
I love Cormorants. There are Brandts here and I think there are Pelagic ones too but I can’t be sure. Very cool birds.
As we got closer to the Lighthouse, we could see these Sea Lions relaxing on the rocks. I love the Cormorants hanging out with them. They were so loud that when the wind/waves were right, you could hear them barking from about a half mile away.
The islands that the above critters are hanging out on used to be attached to the mainland. This Natural Bridge shows the intermediary step before they become islands. Pretty cool, huh?
I know it’s hard to see but this is a Sea Otter. She’s lying on her back in the kelp and is eating something yummy — a crab? an oyster? a clam? Hard to say. Pretty cool though. So far out that I couldn’t get a good shot of it.
Ruthie took this shot at the Lighthouse. I started to suffer from Lens Envy here. There were three people with BIG lenses at the Lighthouse. My camera looked inadequate and the lens went limp and couldn’t perform correctly. It was sad. So, I let the kids take pictures! :)
Gage took this one of a sailboat off the coast.
I know, I know. It’s a Starling. But look how gorgeous! He was singing a moment before and then fluffed himself up and looked dignified. He’s sitting right on the peak of the Lighthouse roof.
On our way back, we wandered through the neighborhood and saw some cute yard art and some more gorgeous gardens. Again though, most of the birds were HOSP and EUST. Not exciting.
Back at our friend’s house, I caught this shot. Lovely.
As we went to the car to go to dinner at 7pm, I caught this shot of the moon. Lovely, isn’t it? A gorgeous California day. See why I can argue that I live in the most beautiful place on earth?