A Closer Look
The American Avocet is a small bird with long legs and a slender, upturned bill that is used to catch water invertebrates for food. Primarily black and white, avocets have a rust-colored head in summer that turns to grayish-white in winter. They forage and nest out in the open, and protect their eggs from overheating by dipping their belly feathers in water. Chicks leave the nest within a day, having already mastered the ability to swim, dive, and walk. Keep an eye out in the morning and at dusk for this native waterfowl.
Originally referred to as “day’s eye,” this simple flower has petals that close over the yellow center at night, and re-open during the day. The saying “fresh as a daisy” originated from this natural phenomenon, and signifies someone having had a good night of sleep and being well-rested for the day ahead. This small, grassland plant has several varieties, and at Shoreline, can be found in the meadowlands along with several other flowering plant species that thrive in the ample sunlight.
Similar to the heron, the Egret is a large, white-plumed bird that features a broad wingspan and long, thin, black legs. During breeding season, egrets develop a neon-green patch of skin near their bill, and longer feathers along their backs. Egrets are slow (yet quite powerful) in the air, so most of their hunting is done on land or wading in the shallows. They are able to stand nearly perfectly still while looking for their prey . . . and usually enjoy a meal after a deadly jab from their long, yellow bill.
The term “goose” is used to describe waterfowl that are smaller than swans and larger than ducks. A female is described as a goose, while males are called ganders, and babies are known as goslings. Geese are monogamous and live in permanent pairs throughout their lives. There are several common phrases that are goose-related, one of which is the wild-goose chase, which seems to have first been mentioned by Mercutio of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet fame.
This majestic carnivore has long legs, a uniquely-shaped neck, and a powerful beak – all of which are easily recognized when the bird is in flight. They are quite large, yet surprisingly only weigh around six pounds thanks to their uniquely hollowed out bone structure. Often waiting in still-motion at the water’s edge, herons are quick to snatch up unsuspecting fish, frogs, or even gophers whether during the day or at night, as their exceptional night vision gives them a distinct hunting advantage.
Found up and down the West coast, jacksmelt are related to the California grunion. A schooling fish, jacksmelt can be found in bays and ocean waters, and are recognizable by their greenish-blue color and metallic stripe. They feed on small crustaceans and can grow up to 16” in length. During spawning season (October to March), mass quantities of eggs attach themselves to seaweed along the shoreline, while large schools can be found swarming in the shallows just outside the tidal zone.
The Western Burrowing Owl is considered a “Species of Special Concern,” and is protected under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. There are relatively few left in the Shoreline biosphere, their numbers dwindling due to feral cats and stray golf balls that frequent the area. These small, brown and white birds are location loyalists, and are prone to returning to the same burrow year after year. The male Burrowing Owl prepares the nest, and the female lays and protects up to 10 eggs during the 28-day incubation period.
There are about eight species of pelicans that all share one differentiating trait in common: an impressively pliable throat pouch (which can hold up to three gallons of water!). Most pelicans use the pouch to capture fish and expel water as they skim the surface of the shoreline. Pelicans are gregarious creatures, often breeding, traveling, and hunting in extremely large flocks. Fish are their primary target, but they’ll indiscriminately eat amphibians, crustaceans, and even other birds.
There are about 60 different kinds of fish that can be referred to as “rockfish” so the name is more of a classification than an identification. Rockfish, as the name implies, can be found swimming and hiding around rocks, and blending in easily. Interestingly, they are loaded with Vitamin D, presumably because they are located in sunny shallow waters near shorelines. Some rockfish don’t breed until they’re 20 years old, but they make up for lost time by laying up to 1,000,000 eggs at a time.
Sedges are groups of perennial plants commonly found in wetlands and similar areas with poor soil. They can be evergreen, and in the right environment, will grow to be waist-high. Some species flourish happily in shade, while others thrive in full sun. All known species are quite hearty, surviving soil erosion, high sediment rates, and hungry animals. Sedges are similar to grasses, but carry with them a simple rule: “sedges have edges”. This means their stems are triangular, with three distinct sides.
In order to avoid flooding, the Shoreline area had to be raised 15-20 feet before the land could be developed. Several surrounding cities contributed landfill, and after many years, it became the recreational destination it is today, offering nature-lovers a man-made lake, golf course, hiking trails, bird-watching, and other activities. Within the 750-acres there are several plant and animal species to enjoy, and many different ecosystems to discover, including Charleston Slough, Coast Casey Forebay, Permanente Creek, and the Meadowlands.
Within the Embiotocidae family are surfperch, perch, and seaperch varieties. The surfperch are primarily found along the sandy beach surf zone, while the others live in much deeper water. These fish have compressed and oblong-shaped bodies, and are viviparous, meaning that embryo development happens within the female fish giving way to live births (instead of hatching from eggs). Growing up to a length of 19”, the surfperch can produce up to 100 live young per litter, each a tiny replica of its full-size parent.