Catfish by the sea, again

For the past eight years, we’ve rounded out our camping season by unhitching our Airstream Safari trailer on the bluffs of South Carlsbad State Beach.  Reservations for the popular beach side campsites need to be made up to  6 months in advance.  Our favorite site has windblown bushes (Melaleuca nesophila) that provide privacy, but California’s drought is now having an impact on them.  A ranger told me that the park is now limiting watering to three times per week and will be replacing the turf with drought tolerant plants.

DSC_0114 South Carlsbad State Beach

DSC_0128 Campsite on the bluff

Each year we enjoy listening to the continuous sound of the surf* and watching the shore birds soar by on the updraft of the sea breeze along the bluffs.

DSC_0068 Surf at Carlsbad

DSC_0337 Pelicans soaring

Nearby is The Flower Fields* 50-acre garden on the Carlsbad Ranch, featuring Giant Tecolote Ranuculus blooms* 10 weeks each spring sustained by reclaimed water from the City of Carlsbad and a drip irrigation system.

DSC_0035 The Flower Fields

DSC_0043 Giant Tecolote Ranunculus

On this trip I did  a photo shoot of a crow dive-bombing a squirrel hole in an attempt to capture young squirrels (See the dramatic photos and story in my post, “A crow and squirrel interlude,” History Safari Expresso).  I was also lucky to have the camera ready when a Great blue heron landed on our campsite fence.

DSC_0293 The crow and the squirrel

DSC_0225 Great blue heron

We decorated our outdoor camp kitchen with papel picado for celebrating Cinco de Mayo.*  Larry deep fried catfish.

DSC_0144 Cooking catfish, Cinco de Mayo

DSC_0157 Catfish by the sea

The last time we ate catfish by the sea, we enjoyed beautiful, glowing sunsets.  This time the sun silhouetted San Clemente Island.

DSC_0191 Flying solo at sunset

The ocean is a wonderful place to contemplate the mysteries and celebrations of life, as seen in my post, “Ocean gleanings,” History Safari Expresso.

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Ocean knight currents, part four

I cautiously passed the windmill facing the ocean, which I had originally and mistakenly perceived to be a giant with waving arms,* and sallied forth to find the museum housing musical instruments that are close to my heart, such as the lute.

DSC_0165-2 South Carlsbad windmill

While venturing eastward, I came upon a lovely field of flowers (The Flower Fields® at Carlsbad Ranch)* with a beautiful damsel (Dulcinea?)* in the middle beckoning visitors to enjoy the splendor of ten million Ranunculus flowers.

DSC_0163 Flower Fields of Carlsbad

Assured that the lady was safe behind a white picket fence, I continued on in search of stringed instruments and came upon a magnificent castle* on top of a hill with a commanding view of the countryside and the Pacific Ocean.  This is the home of the Museum of Making Music,* which displays hundreds of vintage instruments and presents special exhibitions twice a year along with concerts, workshops, and educational programs.  (I last made a pilgrimage here in 2008 to view a special exhibit of ukuleles.)  I was delighted that my quest was at an end as I experienced their current, special exhibit, “The Banjo: A New Day for an Old Instrument.”

DSC_0149 MOMM's banjo exhibit (1)

DSC_0150 MOMM's banjo exhibit (2)

The banjo’s roots are thought to go back to West Africa, where hide-covered gourd folk lutes, such as the akonting, were plucked.*  The concept was transported to Colonial America by Africans via the Atlantic slave trade.

DSC_0159 Banjo's roots

An early version of the banjo was played in degrading minstrel shows of the 1800s.  My favorite black banjo/guitar/singer of the folk song era of the 1960s was Elizabeth Cotten,* best known for her timeless song, “Freight Train.”*

DSC_0146 Recapturing the Banjo

Back at camp, Larry prepared lunch featuring pupusas, a traditional Salvadoran dish, fried masa pies filled with ham and cheese.

DSC_0176 Larry's pupusas

A couple strolled into the sunset as I reflected on our successful quests, the rebirth of the San Diego Opera, and why music is so important.*

DSC_0018 Stroll into the sunset

It’s nice to remember the sun’s gonna shine again.*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Ocean knight currents, part three

Coming back up the bluff’s 50-foot high stairway, this knight paused to get his wind and got a bird’s eye view as the crow flies* of pelicans gliding by, sustained by onshore air currents.  Occasionally, Red-shouldered hawks also soared by as they looked for prey, such as the abundant California ground squirrels, and were harassed by spirited crows defending their territory.*

DSC_0330 Pelicans over Carlsbad bluff

Crows are now considered to be among the world’s most intelligent animals, as demonstrated by Dr. Alex Taylor in the BBC documentary, “Inside the Animal Mind.”*

DSC_0050 As the crow flies

On page 87 in the Spanish novel, Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes, translated by Edith Grossman, HarperCollins Publishers, 2005, Don Quixote said this about the crow:

According to an ancient and widespread tradition throughout the kingdom of Great Britain, this king [King Arthur] did not die but, through the art of enchantment, was turned into a crow and in time will return to rule and recover his kingdom and scepter…

(I continue to enjoy the benefits of reading out loud a chapter at a time at bedtime of this very readable and enjoyable translation of this great work!)

California brown pelicans also seem right at home in this kingdom by the sea.

DSC_0231 Pelican gliding

The brown pelican, once shot at for millinery plumes, first received legal protection when Theodore Roosevelt* created sixteen federal bird refuges, starting with Pelican Island, Florida, in 1903.  The species is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and was placed on the U.S. Endangered Species List in 1970 due to the effects of DDT on its eggs.  Agricultural use of DDT in the U.S. was banned in 1972 and by 2009, brown pelicans made a comeback and were removed from the Endangered Species List.  They are now commonly seen flying along California’s coast* and diving into the ocean to capture food.*

DSC_0254 Two pelicans gliding

But a recent brown pelican population survey led by UC Davis professor emeritus and wildlife biologist Dan Anderson found a drastic decline in nesting pairs, which may be due to changes in ocean temperature and shifts in the pelicans’ food supply.

San Diego Audubon Society says, “Celebrate birds because they fly…” (Click on their beautiful video stream at the bottom of their website.)

DSC_0197 Pelican ballet

Watching this pelican ballet in the sky was mesmerizing, but by noon, it was time to take my usual midday shower in the campground’s facilities.  (We are very frugal with the use of water and electricity in the trailer.  By the fifth day of non-hookup camping, our 30-gallon freshwater tank is typically half full, which means we typically use 3 gallons/day!)  After showers, I always look forward to eating a sandwich made by Larry and then catching up on notes and reading.

DSC_0334 A knight's lunch

While eating my lunch, a squirrel tried to claw its way into a bag of potato chips!

DSC_0232 Squirrel looking for lunch

This drama played out while an old black crow* majestically swept by, perhaps on a quest for food, or the Holy Grail.*

DSC_0052 Crow over Carlsbad

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Ocean knight currents, part two

Stairways lead down to South Carlsbad State Beach, one of San Diego’s top beaches, where people enjoy swimming, surfing, sunbathing, walking, running, fishing, bird watching and listening to the sounds of the surf.*

DSC_0329 Stairway to the beach

Bluff and beach erosion continue to be ongoing issues.  The City of Carlsbad and the State of California work together with local agencies to replenish sand washed away by winter storms.*  While walking on the sand, I was surprised to step on one of the tar balls recently reported to be washing up on Carlsbad beaches, which may be naturally seeping from the ocean floor.

DSC_0322 Walking the shoreline

Abundant wildlife is seen along the beach, such as this Whimbrel, Numenius phaeopus, a migratory bird species that breeds in subarctic North America and travels down the coast on the Pacific Flyway* to winter as far south as the tip of South America.

DSC_0276 Whimbrel

Seen below, the Marbled Godwit, Limosa fedoa, one of the dominant shorebirds along San Diego’s coast, has a long bill enabling them to probe deeply in the sand for aquatic insects and mollusks.

DSC_0300 Marbled Godwit

DSC_0304 Marbled Godwit foraging

We also enjoyed eating mollusks, such as the New Zealand Littleneck Clams that Larry steamed with butter, garlic, and wine and served over Shandong noodles.  The shells were saved for table decoration.

DSC_0209 New Zealand Littleneck Clams

One morning, I was looking down from the bluff and spotted a little boy picking up objects from the beach and throwing them into the sea.

DSC_0042 A boy picked up & threw something

I imagined the objects to be starfish that he was saving by tossing them back in the water, but they turned out to be flat stones and his father was showing him how to throw them to make them skip across the surface.  Still, this iconic image caused me to revisit the thought provoking and motivational “The Boy and the Starfish“* story, inspired by Loren Eiseley, which illustrates that individual actions can make a significant difference.

DSC_0043 Perhaps a star thrower

This knight-errant is currently happy as a clam at high tide regarding the good news this week that San Diego Opera will not close, due to the overwhelming support from the community and donors, and like the boy in the starfish story, every gift is significant and you can make a difference!*

*This is a YouTube video.

Ocean knight currents, part one

Temperatures soared into the high nineties in San Diego as we prepared for a 5-day sally to the ocean bluffs of South Carlsbad where we looked forward to cooling ocean and air currents.  Waving giant arms greeted us as we approached our destination, which, upon closer inspection, turned out to be the sails of a windmill, so I set aside my lance and reminisced about the poignant last San Diego Opera where the knight-errant, Don Quixote, battled giants that turned out to be windmills, even as the San Diego Opera was fighting for its existence.  The title role was sung by the great Italian bass, Ferruccio Furlanetto, who has a special message* for those concerned about the San Diego Opera.

DSC_0129 Windmill by the sea

We arrived on the eve of Cinco de Mayo* and promptly celebrated with fresh homemade salsa, chips and Margaritas (a perfect summer drink)*, while savoring the continuous sounds of the surf and a beautiful sunset.

DSC_0001 Cinco de Mayo by the sea

An onshore low-pressure system moved in for most of the week and brought cooler temperatures and gusty winds.  This was a refreshing change from the heat of the previous week, and little did we know that this would turn out to be just a brief respite as hot, dry Santa Ana winds would return the following week and bring record breaking temperatures, fires and loss of homes in San Diego County* usually not seen this early in California’s fire season.

DSC_0064 Our favorite beach campsite

Larry’s decorations for our favorite beachside campsite included papel picado banners near the dense, windswept shrubs that provide wonderful privacy.

DSC_0079 Windswept by the sea

For five days we relaxed to the sound of ocean waves and wind* as we enjoyed the sight of pelicans sailing by in various formations sustained by the updraft of the bluff air currents.

DSC_0082 Relaxing by the sea

Camping by the sea always whets our appetite for seafood.  We moved our outdoor kitchen to the north side of our campsite where vegetation provided a windbreak, facilitating the frying of calamari.  To prepare these “onion rings of the sea“*, Larry cut 1/2 inch rings from squid hoods and shook them in a plastic bag containing flour, corn meal, corn starch, and seasonings, and deep fried a few at a time for 2-3 minutes, just until golden brown.

DSC_0096 Frying calamari by the sea

Dinners were followed by sipping wine and enjoying beautiful ocean sunsets.

DSC_0108 Pelicans at sunset

This trip marks our 8th camping season with our Airstream Safari as we continue to enjoy living the Airstream life!*

DSC_0262 Living the Airstream Life!

Continue to follow the adventures of this knight-errant by the sea in upcoming posts… Cheers!

*This is a YouTube video.