Low tides make for the best tide-pool exploring, temporarily exposing many of the creatures that live in the intertidal zone--and winter brings the lowest tides of the year.
This weekend offers a couple of prime opportunities with low tides Saturday (at 12:51 p.m.) and especially Sunday (at 1:15 p.m.). The county has a number of good places to go tide pooling, including Little Corona del Mar, Crystal Cove State Beach and sections along Laguna Beach, but one place to explore and get a bit of an education is Dana Point's Orange County Marine Institute.
The institute, which specializes in educational programs about marine science and natural history for youths and adults, sits in Dana Point Harbor on the edge of a marine-life refuge. It has set up a self-guided tide-pool program for youngsters, with seven conservation-oriented activities described in a brochure, "Good Tidepooler," available from the institute for 25 cents. The activities described are for children ages 4 to 12.
This year, the institute is marking some of the year's best tide pooling with a series of programs titled Super (minus-tide) Sundays. The next program, this Sunday, is sold out, but space is available on future programs, including Jan. 30 and dates in March and April.
Experts from the institute will lead participants on an exploration of the varied sea life found just below the surface and will share tips on how to explore without damaging the fragile ecosystem. Reservations for the family-oriented program are suggested; prices are $3 for adults and $2 for children.
With just a little instruction, said spokesman Harry Helling, tide-pool explorers can learn to pick out some of the harder-to-see residents, including tide-pool sculpin (a small fish that blends into its environment, chameleon-like) and sea hares (a type of snail that can grow to the size of a basketball).
Upper Newport Bay is one of the most-visited birding areas in Southern California--in the country, perhaps--but most of the activity is concentrated along Backbay Drive.
On Jan. 29, the local Sea & Sage Chapter of the National Audubon Society will offer a field trip to the less-visited western side of the bay, where University Drive meets Backbay Drive. The trip is led by Doug Toohey and Susan Sheakley.
Toohey said participants may see some unusual species of swallow seen during this year's bird count, held earlier this month.
Non-members of Audubon, including beginning birders, are invited. No reservations are needed. Meet at University and Backbay drives at 8 a.m. Bring binoculars. There will be about a mile of walking.
What: Tide-pool program.
When: Sunday, Jan. 23, from 1 to 3 p.m.
Where: Orange County Marine Institute, 35502 Del Obispo, Dana Point.
Whereabouts: From the San Diego (5) Freeway, exit at Camino Las Ramblas and head south. Turn left at Del Obispo and follow it to the end.
Wherewithal: $3 for adults, $2 for children 12 and under.
Where to call: (714) 496-2274.