Saturday, August 18, 2007


Photo: Heron in a (sort of) secluded spot on the Ventura river not far from the Pacific ocean. Note the 101 (Ventura) freeway in the background.
Photo by/COPYRIGHT 2007 by Ross Care

Wild Ventura

Ventura is fortunate to still be the home of some of the rare wetlands still remaining along the increasingly developed central California coast. At the mouth of the Ventura river is a small but varied and ever-changing environment, not spectacular but fascinating for the few who may take the time to get to know it.

It’s a great spot for bird watching, especially for those (like me) who lack the patience to sit around waiting for the elusive creatures to present themselves. The broad mouth of the river with its shallow water and sandbars is a popular hangout for gulls, pelicans, coots, and cormorants. The latter are often seen perched on logs or rocks languidly spreading their wings in the sun to dry (each individual bird looking a bit like a Harryhausen homunculus).

I even once observed a group of white pelicans that stayed in the freshwater of the estuary for a few days. (These opposed to the happily now more common California brown pelicans). Another transient group was a mixed flock of blackbirds, including the beautiful redwings, which massed in the reeds along the riverbank.

There is also a resident kingfisher, an elusive and restless flash of crested blue and white that can also be detected by its whirring twittery call. Various species of herons and egrets are also not uncommon.

Strangely enough the woods that stand between the river and the campground remind me of the east coast southern woods of the Carolinas and Georgia. The low dark oaks also remind me of the palmetto groves of the Georgia sea islands, without the palmetto of course. (Though there is very southern looking Spanish moss on the trees up the coast around Solvang).

Following the trail through these tangled, shadowy woods, aside from the constant buzz of the traffic, it’s easy to forget you are adjacent to the 101 Ventura freeways, one of the major arteries between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara and the upper central coast.

Walks though the estuary in July and August also amaze with their lush greenery while the rest of California turns brown and gold. The various reeds, including a giant bamboo-like variety, peak at this time of year and provide of mass of emerald green along the banks.

Wildflowers bloom on the dunes along the shore where, as often in California, the seasons seem to confusingly intermingle.

Ross

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