Monday, May 9, 2016

A visit to La Jolla Cove

Some interesting seabirds were being seen from shore at La Jolla Cove recently. I went early one morning to scope out seabirds from the Point La Jolla vantage point. "Scope" is the correct word, because I was looking for more oceanic birds that do not approach too close to shore. A deep little canyon comes in to this natural bay. Migrating seabirds may enter into this little bay before moving out again (see map below). I was especially looking at birds 3/4 of a mile out to more than a mile-and-a-half. It requires high-powered optics and knowledge of identifying seabirds by flight style and shape more than plumage characters.

[By the way, for out-of-towners, La Jolla is pronounced as if it was Spanish: "la Hoy-ya" and not "la Jo-la." What the word means is open to debate, as jolla isn't a Spanish word. Options include the Spanish la joya meaning The Jewel, or possibly a corruption of a Native American word Woholle meaning a Hole in the Wall.]

scoping out La Jolla Cove
La Jolla Cove seawatch viewpoint from Point La Jolla at Scripps Park. Looking north across La Jolla Bay.
Point La Jolla satellite view
Point La Jolla and La Jolla Bay satellite view.
I spent an hour-and-a-half at dawn staring through my scope with my left eye. I spotted many birds, including over 100 Black Storm-Petrels and 2 Sooty Shearwaters--birds that are not easily spotted from shore. A couple new birds for the year for me were 2 Wandering Tattlers and a Black Turnstone on the rocky shores, and a Lilac-crowned Parrot screeching in the palm trees above the parking area.

Cormorants were nesting on the cliffs, terns and pelicans were diving into the water for a morning snack of fish for breakfast.

I was inches from 30 or so California Sea Lions resting and fighting on the rocks below me and noted a couple of Bottlenose Dolphins swimming by not too distant. There were also several boats, including small one-man rafts and kayaks out fishing a mile or more from shore. Several swimmers were crossing the bay--more than a mile swim across the bay in rather cold water!

Several walkers and joggers passed by, many stopping to watch the sea lions and snap some up-close photos.

After my eyes tired and I wasn't seeing anything new, I packed up the scope into the car and then followed the walkway taking some photos. I started on the east side at Goldfish Point and walked maybe 1/2 mile west to the Seal Rock. I provide a map, below.

Aerial view of La Jolla Cove
Closer view of La Jolla Cove area
The first challenge to visiting is finding a parking space. If you can't come mid-week, then arrive well before 7:00 am. Or you can drive round and round hoping someone pulls out of a parking space right in front of you. Park along Coast Boulevard. I try to park close to La Jolla Cove at Scripps Park, as that is where I scan the sea from.

Parking at La Jolla Cove
Arrive early if you want a parking space.
Starting on the east side of La Jolla Cove and facing east...

La Jolla Cave and Goldfish Point
La Jolla Cave and Goldfish Point
From the same viewpoint, but now facing west down into La Jolla Cover proper. The palm tree cluster is in Scripps Park and Point La Jolla sticks out into the sea...

La Jolla Cove
La Jolla Cove
At Point La Jolla where I scope out seabirds, now looking north across the mouth of the bay...

California Sea Lions on Point La Jolla
California Sea Lions on Point La Jolla
Walking westward along the Coast Walk Trail on the seaward side of Scripps Park...

Coast Walk Trail, Scripps Park, La Jolla Cove
Scripps Park
Just west of Scripps Park is Rocky Point and a rocky beach as I look north...

Rocky Point, La Jolla Cove
Rocky Point
From the same viewpoint looking west toward the Childrens Beach (long since taken over by seals and sea lions)...

Childrens Beach and Point Mencinger
View of Childrens Beach and Point Mencinger
I finally reach Seal Rock on the west side of the Childrens Beach and can look south along the shoreline, no longer in La Jolla Bay...

Seal Rock, La Jolla
Seal Rock
Harbor Seal on Childrens Pool Observation Walkway
Harbor Seal on Childrens Pool Observation Walkway
For a previous birding site guide to La Jolla Cove check here.