• NATURAL LA JOLLA:
In early February, the Santa Ana winds blew from the mountains, bringing warm breezes that took the usual chill out of the air. Since then, it seems we are on our way to an early spring — flowers and trees are blooming all around us.
High on the bluffs above Black’s Beach, there are fields of bright yellow flowers swaying in the warm breezes. Bush sunflowers (or brittlebrush, Encelia californica) grow prolifically there on the mesa; these shrubs are typically found in the coastal sage scrub habitats of southern California.
In town, evergreen pear trees (Pyrus kawakamii) along our streets were also in full bloom and the petals that rained down whenever the breeze blew made little snowdrifts on the sidewalk.
Apart from flowers everywhere you look, there are other signs of spring approaching. Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) along the cliffs near Sunny Jim cave by the Cove are getting into their full breeding plumage, sporting bright red pouches, yellow heads and light blue eyes.
The nesting peak for pelicans is March and April; these magnificent flyers choose nesting sites on offshore islands. The month ended with some more good spring rains, which is sure to result in a beautiful lush spring.
— Kelly Stewart is a marine biologist with The Ocean Foundation, working with NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla. Her “Natural La Jolla” column about the floral and fauna of La Jolla appears second Thursdays in La Jolla Light. She may be reached at NaturalLaJolla@gmail.com