Low overcast skies of recent days may not be the greatest weather for sun lovers and surfers, but it's ideal for birds wintering in the Bolsa Chica wetlands and Upper Newport Bay.
A chance to see some of these seasonal visitors foraging between tides drew Stan and Charlotte Livingston from their Granada Hills home to the Bolsa Chica State Ecological Reserve on Thursday.
"This is one of the nicest things about being retired," said 68-year-old optometrist Stan Livingston as he set up a much-used spotter scope for a closer look at marbled godwits, snowy egrets, willets and American avocets dipping their beaks at water's edge.
As the tide rippled into the marsh, a pair of black-capped Forster's terns swooped overhead, then dove into the water after stray morsels. A pair of bufflehead ducks soared skyward. All were oblivious to the roar of cars and trucks whizzing past on Pacific Coast Highway near Huntington Beach.
"This time of year, we come down here every chance we get," said his wife, 67, a retired high school mathematics teacher.
Amigos de Bolsa Chica, a 10,000-member conservation group instrumental in the fight to preserve much of the 1,200-acre wetlands, will conduct its annual winter tour of the area on Saturday. Groups will leave every 15 minutes between 9 and 11 a.m. from the reserve parking lot on Pacific Coast Highway about one mile south of Warner Avenue.
Bright Weekend Looms
Meanwhile, the trailing edge of a storm front that had been expected to bring showers to Southern California drifted toward Arizona on Thursday, sweeping skies clear for a near-perfect weekend of sun and breeze.
The same weather system left considerable moisture in the lowlands of Central and Northern California and piled up a bit more snow in the Sierra. But it left the Southland dry, and National Weather Service meteorologists said a trough of high pressure now settling into this part of the coast should keep the storm track well to the north--though temperatures could turn cooler as high cloudiness increases on Sunday and Monday.
High temperatures Thursday ranged from 74 degrees in Santa Ana to 65 in Newport Beach. Lows dipped to 52 degrees in San Juan Capistrano. Forecasters called for patchy low clouds in the early morning hours, clearing to mostly sunny skies. The Weather Service said today should see the beginning of a minor warming trend that can be expected to peak in the upper 70s Saturday, turning downward again by Sunday.
Beaches should be fair and cool: air temperature in the upper 60s to lower 70s, with water about 8 degrees cooler, wind mostly west from 8 to 15 m.p.h. and surf gradually subsiding to a maximum of four feet on an 11- or 12-second interval.
Western swells rising four to eight feet in some places created a hazardous situation for boat operators near many harbor entrances along the coast, and while this was expected to smooth itself out by Saturday or Sunday, small-craft advisories for west winds to 20 knots were in effect for inshore waters Thursday. Small boats venturing farther offshore were warned of northwest winds to 30 knots and combined seas to 12 feet that are expected to diminish only slightly today and Saturday.
Visitors to the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains can expect fair skies with north to northwest winds gusting to 30 m.p.h. at times through much of the weekend, the Weather Service said, adding a warning that overnight low temperatures will dip below freezing at most resort levels.
Favorable ski conditions with eight to 20 inches of icy hard-pack snow were reported for Snow Summit and Mt. Waterman.
In the Sierra, motorists could find themselves driving through occasional patches of fog, forecasters said, and skies should remain mostly cloudy, with the snow level holding at about 6,000 feet and overnight temperatures dropping into the 20s at resort levels.
Sierra skiers should find 80 inches of packed powder at Mammoth, where 19 lifts are in operation, and ample snow at June Mountain and Badger Pass.
Some cloudiness also is expected in Southern California deserts, and there is the possibility of wind rising to 30 m.p.h. at times. High desert temperatures are expected to hit the mid-60s with overnight lows in the upper 30s and lower 40s. The low deserts should be five to 10 degrees cooler, forecasters predicted.
Chance of Rain in Arizona
Arizona's weekend is expected to include variable cloudiness and a chance of showers. The weather service said mountain lows should be in the 20s and highs in the 40s, with deserts about 15 degrees warmer.