Migratory birds got a break from the cold, but allergy sufferers got a headache Wednesday as balmy Santa Ana winds wafted temperatures into the high 80s.
The dry desert winds warmed feathered visitors flying through Southern California, but for those who had to stay and smell the flowers, it wasn't fun.
"The wind transfers pollen, mold, and dust . . . and it causes people to wheeze and sneeze and everything else," said Cathy Aninag, a receptionist at the Allergy & Asthma Associates of Southern California in Mission Viejo. Aninag said the clinic is booked solid for the week.
"My nights are taken up too," said Dr. Jonathan Sadai, an allergist with the Allergy and Asthma Group of Newport Harbor. Sadai attributed the busier-than-normal schedule to the Santa Ana winds, the recent rain and then a drop in humidity.
"When you have the Santa Ana winds, you have a reversal of the normal airflow," he said. "It stirs up the weed pollen--sage brush and tumbleweed--that's in the desert" and carries it to the coast, Sadai said.
In addition, the dry air makes the nose sensitive and tends to cause more nasal and chest problems, said Dr. William Berger at UCI Medical Center.
Allergy sufferers may get a respite as the winds decrease today, and slightly cooler temperatures in the upper 70s and low 80s move in for the rest of the week and the weekend.
While the weather may have kept some inside, bird-watchers took to the parks hoping to get a peek at rare migratory species that have taken refuge in Orange County.
Long Beach residents Gracie Krocker and Fran Aukerman stood on the walkway over the salty marshes of Bolsa Chica Wildlife Refuge, binoculars in hand, peering at egrets and blue herons. The two said they have seen several American white pelicans there in the past, and a fellow bird watcher reported seeing one there Wednesday. Until recently, the American white pelican has been rare in Orange County.
"They're very exciting," Krocker said of the pelicans, which are bigger than brown pelicans and have a wingspan of nine feet. "If one of them sticks his long neck and big chin in the water, they all do it simultaneously," she said.
Doug Willick, a volunteer for the Audubon Society Sea and Sage Chapter in Orange County, called the white pelican "a spectacular bird."
"It's an extremely big bird. They hang there in the air and look like big bombers," he said.
The pelicans, which are white with black-trimmed wings, usually winter at this latitude, but have not been seen in Orange County until recently, Willick said.
"Occasionally we get a flock, but not always," he said. But in the last four years, Willick said, more birds have been coming to Orange County.
This year he spotted about 100 white pelicans on the Santa Ana River in Anaheim, between Ball and Lincoln roads.
"That size of a flock is unusual," he said.
Fall and spring are the best times to spot unusual birds, Willick said, because so many are migrating and "a small percentage don't know where they are supposed to go."
A magnolia warbler, which usually lives east of the Rockies and migrates to southern Mexico, ended up in Huntington Central Park on Wednesday, Willick said.
And a red-throated pipit, which usually lives in Siberia, somehow made it to the park last week, he said.
Most of the rare birds are young fliers that have lost their way.
In the case of the pipit, "some of them go down the wrong side of the Pacific Ocean," he said.