An early-morning excursion to Newport Harbor turned into a memorable nature lesson for a Costa Mesa family who came across a rare sight: a trio of black swans, a species rarely seen in Southern California.
The sighting on Monday morning was the second spotting of black swans in the past month, with another trio of the exotic birds at an Irvine lake mid- August.
“We were freaking out,” said Alana Flores, who took her sons Jude, 11, and Grey, 7, to a small beach in the harbor before they started their homeschooling lessons for the day. “Up swam these three black swans. My boys love nature and animals.”
Jude, a Steve Irwin fan and marine biology fanatic, immediately recognized the rare sight, explaining to his mom how the species are native of Tasmania and Australia.
“I was like, ‘are you sure’?” Flores asked. “I took a few pictures, popped them in iNaturalist, and sure enough they were.”
They raced home to get their bodyboard and goggles to swim with the swans for the next three hours.
“We just kind of hung out with them,” Flores said, adding the boys helped pluck out the greenest eel grass to feed the swans. “They are just so beautiful to watch, they were curious but cautious. It was just a great way to start the day.”
Though they are rarely seen in Southern California, there have been documented sightings. There were a pair of black swans spotted on Balboa Island in February 2019 and then another pair in Rainbow Harbor off Long Beach in May 2019.
Black swans are sometimes kept by private breeders, aviaries and estates as ornamental birds. It’s unclear if the trio of swans spotted this week are the same ones seen not far away in Irvine in August.
Flores said the sighting is a reminder that science lessons can be found in nature all around us.
“We mostly get all of our classes outside, in nature, living life,” she said. “That’s how we learn.”
The family frequents tide pools often, and recently came across a rare nudibranch, a small sea slug not usually seen in the area. Even in their Costa Mesa neighborhood, they keep an eye out for critters that can be found around the neighborhood, such as possums, raccoons and even coyotes, she said.
“It’s a whole science lesson right outside your door,” she said. “It’s all here, it’s all right at our doorstep.”
Source: Orange County Register