Cambrian: Opinion

Climate change wreaking havoc with coastal creatures

The columnist found this surf scoter on a walk along the beach from Leffingwell north. The bird was a long way from its normal ocean habitat.
The columnist found this surf scoter on a walk along the beach from Leffingwell north. The bird was a long way from its normal ocean habitat. Special to The Cambrian

Having lived in Cambria going on 34 years, I’ve seen a lot of changes. Aside from fewer houses and more trees, there was something particularly precious: rain. Now, I realize Earth perpetually goes through “cycles” but, hmmm, this one’s a doozy.

Thankfully the naysayers on climate change are beginning to be quieted by the voice of reason. Nonetheless, things have changed and we need to change along with them. One of the harder things to see change is the wildlife.

Polar bears have been the worldwide poster child of environmental havoc. Melting ice caps are sending these snowy giants into more precarious human situations. But they aren’t the only ones suffering by any means.

My dear friend and I went walking on the beach from Leffingwell north. She spotted an unusual bird nestled in the sand. “Nestled” isn’t exactly the best term — it was obviously distressed, as it didn’t move when we walked by. 

“If it’s still there when we walk back we’ll see what we can do,” we agreed.

Naturally, it was. As we approached it, it started to struggle toward the water. It didn’t make it far before I gently bent down and spoke with it, sending out as many good vibes as I could, and she stopped. 

I scooped her up into my arms (she was smaller than a seagull). My friend called Pacific Wildlife Care to see what to do next. Sunday afternoon must have been busy for them (baby bird season). I put her in a crate with some towels and a bowl of water. 

“Does she even drink fresh water?” 

My field guide for birds gave a close representation of a creature; I then went onto the Internet to confirm. A surf scoter. 

My friend, Marcelle Bakula, who has been involved with PWC for years told me, “Of course you never see those on the beach because they’re sea birds! Unless you’re out on the ocean, you are not likely to encounter them. And they have been suffering.”

Monday morning the Scoter was hanging in there, and PWC called me back. “No, they get their water from fish and such.” Thank you for that answer. “Bring her right in, and we’ll see what we can do.”  

I arrived at their facility in front of the Morro Bay power plant. She was not looking happy. 

“Yes, last year I couldn’t even have told you what a scoter was, but now I’ve seen so many of these seafaring birds — it’s sad.” 

I couldn’t get a good number, but she said it was a lot.

By the time I filled out the paperwork and she came out from the back room, our little friend had died. 

“Sorry. But, thanks for trying. You may want to let them know next door at the marine center about the dead seal you saw, too.” 


I did, and the fellow there said they are having such a tremendous “seal event” that they don’t even count any more “unless they are tangled in netting or have some other sign of human interference.” 


You read about the closing of the sardine fishing, how fish are moving away or deeper as ocean forests decline or change, predators either move or more than likely starve. What to do. 

Other than to be even more conscientious about your personal impacts, if you find an animal, call Pacific Wildlife Care at 543-WILD. Keep children and others away from the bird or seal or what-have-you, so it does not become more distressed. 

And say a little prayer.  

Related links

Cambria’s P.J. Webb, chair of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, offered some links to more information about the situation: