Where the River Ends, a Gull Bath

I headed to the bluff on the east side of the San Lorenzo River. This is where the river ends into Monterey Bay.

On my left was the Monterey Bay and beyond was the Municipal Wharf (sight of great fork-tailed storm-petrel sightings last year) and to my right was Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, now in winter dormancy. I knew that any time a large river entered the ocean, where fresh water meets salt, there would be bathing gulls. Lots of gulls.

Down below, there were hundreds of gulls. This multi age and many specied gathering contained mainly California, herring, mew, and western. I scanned the gathering and found no rarities. But it did give me an opportunity to observe the dynamics of gull bathing and preening.

The mighty San Lorenzo River is a major winter gull bathing and resting location on Monterey Bay. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is on the west side. The Logger’s Revenge to the right and my favorite roller coaster, the Big Dipper, is on the left.

Using my not-so-secret powers of observation I noted two areas that the gulls used: river and sand. The river is used for washing and the sand for preening, resting and playing.

The gulls used the river right in front of the railway trestle which was featured in the 80’s vampire flick Lost Boys. The birds were doing their indelible flappy wing dance followed by a head plunge and a wiggle. Yes very scientific I know.

The gulls on the sand spit where resting or preening. I noticed a few juvenile gulls playing with slicks on the spit point. They would carry a stick around and then drop it and pick it up. Repeat. I can only guess that they are practicing their eye-beak coordination.

The spread I sketched was a not-to-scale gull’s eye view of the river mouth. I love to make my own maps, using my own names for the land. This map contains my own: Seaweed Island, the “Wash”, Stick-Grab-Point, Gull’s Rest Spit, North Spit, and the “Stump”. Most of these land and watermarks are ephemeral, changing and disappearing with the tides and the winter rain, washing down from the Santa Cruz Mountains.

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