I have to confess that I’ve been a resident of Southern California for only about six years now. Nonetheless, I have somehow fully embraced the smugly self-satisfied attitude that comes from basking in warm eternal sunshine by the seaside while the rest of the country gets slammed with the freezing slushstorms that bury everyone for three months under what northeastern PR masters and ski lodge owners in the 1940s  managed somehow to get popularly labeled a “Winter Wonderland.” Well, I lived most of my life in the vicinity of Chicago, so I speak from many years of experience of the delights of what non-Californians like to argue is all the “real weather” they’d miss ever so very much in a terrible wasteland where it’s essentially always 70 and sunny (well, except for the month-long “June gloom”–which occurs in May–during which the mornings are somewhat overcast; and the occasional temperature spikes into the 100s; and the rare dips into the 50s, during which Angelenos don their parkas and designer snowboots and whine incessantly about how bitter, bitter cold it is).

Well, those non-Californians lie. Or at least they don’t know, really, what they’d miss.

I used to be that way. I moved to Long Beach in 2008 to take a new job, assuming California would be a terrible, awful place to live: full of shallow, vacuous, image-obsessed people living in a characterless, vast suburban sprawl, their brains softened and their blood thinned by too much comfortably moderate weather. The distinct seasons of the Midwest, I confidently lectured at the time (there are, actually two: one humidly hot and the other bitterly cold, separated by a week or two of phenomenal loveliness referred to as Spring and Summer) made people sturdier, sharper, more creative, more self-reliant, more acutely aware, and generally superior to the idle Eloi of the West Coast.

And then came my first winter here, and sitting on the balcony on December afternoons, and walking on the beach on New Years Day, and visiting the butterflies and peacocks at the LA Arboretum in February. I converted. I drank the Kool-Aid. I succumbed. It may well be a place full of shallow, vacuous, image-obsessed people living in a characterless, vast suburban sprawl, their brains softened and their blood thinned by too much comfortably moderate weather, but by golly it’s nice outside.

Which brings me, after a long and winding preamble, to the point of this post, which is that I spent my Christmas morning this year at the lovely Bolsa Chica Wetlands, about a fifteen-minute drive down the coast from my home in Long Beach, with my husband (yes, that happened in December, too, thanks to a majority of the United States Supreme Court) and the D7000 with a Nikor 80.0-200.0 mm f/2.8 on a stick. And jacketless, in short sleeves, we wandered the paths of the sanctuary, exchanging Merry Christmases with other coastal nature-lovers, and being both humbly thankful for our good fortune in finding ourselves in such a place as well as (and I’m really not proud of this) smirkingly delighted that the only snow we’d see this White Christmas was way, way off on the horizon, up on top of the San Bernardinos where it belongs.

Anyway, enough about the weather. Here are some of the birds we saw on Christmas Day by the ocean. Ho, ho, ho.

Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens) at Bolsa Chica Wetlands

Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens) at Bolsa Chica Wetlands

iridescent ibis

Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) at Bolsa Chica Wetlands.

Willet's Curve

Willet (Tringa semipalmata) leaving a cloudy underwater sandtrail as it hunts, at Bolsa Chica Wetlands

Reddish Egret (Egretta rufuscrens) hunting at Bolsa Chica Wetlands

Reddish Egret (Egretta rufuscrens) hunting at Bolsa Chica Wetlands

Pair of White Pelicans at Bolsa Chica Wetlands

Pair of White Pelicans at Bolsa Chica Wetlands