07 November 2007

Oh, to be a pelican.

05 November 2007, Monday (though not etched in electrons here 'til a slow Wednesday afternoon):

I walk out the back door of the office to a red-tailed hawk coasting slowly over the dune grasses, only looking at the moment -window shopping - and apparently not finding anything of real interest.

The food's in on the ocean however. Several brown pelicans float on the waves just off shore, perhaps two dozen in all between here and the mouth of the creek. Several males with brightly shining white heads glide in and out...a sign of impending mating season? A few of the pelicans are finding food whilst sitting atop the waves, nary an ounce of effort extended in dipping their pouched jaws into the water and coming out with a mouthful of slender surf fish.

Others hover hawk-like above the brilliant blue ocean and pure white wave crests. Groups of two or three soaring cruise together 'til one, with a keener eye than his comrades, suddenly turns and crash dives into the turquoise blue. The others quickly follow his lead, each of them coming to rest with a fish bouncing around inside their yellow bills.

Oh, to be a pelican. Such an ungainly and awkward looking beast. Certainly not designed not for our People Magazine vision of beauty. Round in the gut, long skinny necks, huge feet, a large sagging jowel. They search for food, twisting and turning on the breeze, scanning the blue surface below. Their dives are clumsy, spinning, twisting, collapsing falls ending in a shallow and noisy splash. Even in eating they appear off-kilter, nodding their heads back and forth, up and down, turning a slippery, squirming fish into position inside their beak before jerking their head backwards and tossing it down like a worm in the bottom of a tequila bottle.

Everything about the pelican looks awkward...except for its magnificent, low-altitude coasting inches above the the Pacific. Gliding effortlessly, head craned back over its shoulders, legs tucked in behind, wings outstretched and curved to expertly shape the air currents above and below. There is no more magical animal show on the coast (in my silly opinion) than the flight of the lone pelican, or the tight formation of three or four of these magnificent creatures on a quiet, hazy afternoon.

Further down the beach, a large gathering of western and California gulls spans the sandy horizon. Occasionally, the entire flock lifts and takes flight, circling a few times before returning to their original plots of sand. Is it the odd, faster wave that makes panics them into these sudden aerial escapes? An unseen visitor? Jumpy juveniles?

A handful of dark, slippery seal heads pop up sporadically between the running waves. As soon as they notice me notice them, they disappear beneath the foam making me guess where they'll apppear next. This game of hide'n'seek continues for my entire saunter this morning...as, I guess, it does every time I'm out here.

There's the beginning of small sandbar at the creek's mouth this morning. A raised platform of sand just beyond yesterday's waterline, an elevated wedge that creates a second small outlet for the creek's freshwater and ocean's waves to mingle. Two gulls perch bravely atop this small mound ignoring the shallow waves washing over top, seemingly holding their claim to this private beach from the masses on the safer footing of the beach.

A handful of double-crested cormorants float just a few yards beyond the breaking surf.

Why do I have to go do "real work" when I really just want to sit here on the beach all day!?

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