05 August 2008

Our Seagull Lives

The afternoon sky’s a monochrome gray as I step on to my beach for the first time in almost a month. The Pacific is only a shade darker than the sky and equally unemotional. The gray sand is littered with footprints, human and avian, as well as detritus from both species. Wave-tossed plastic scraps and sand-scarred cans mingle with cracked crustacean body parts, forgotten feathers and white puddles of bird poop. It’s an underwhelming return to one of my favorite spots of the neighborhood.

The only flash of vivid color comes from the bright orange bills of terns and gulls gathered by the dozens in several large flocks up and down the beach. Large Western gulls and the only slightly smaller California gulls, near indistinguishable from each other, stride between the dual-gray, Heerman’s gulls with deep orange bills. The sleek black-headed Caspian terns appear to stand guard over clusters of smaller, shaggy-haired Elegant terns, the first I’ve noticed in my brief attempts at birding identifying out here.

Sitting here watching the birds, I’m struck by the apparent similarities of our two colonial species. I've started a list of some of those thoughts, wonderin’ if there’s a motivational book that is yet to be written….”A Seagull’s Guide to Life, Love, and Incredible Wealth” ©, or something of the sort. (I call dibs on the royalties if any of y’all write the book before I do, which I won’t, but I can be bought out for a decent bottle of wine, a polite mention in the acknowledgements, and a couple of signed first editions.)

How People and Seagulls are Sort of Alike
  • We stand around in large groups, looking busy while doing lots of nothing.
  • At the first sign of discomfort, we all fly off in different directions eventually returning to the exact same spot of sand.
  • We greedily scavenge from someone else's effort, stealing what we can and squawking from a safe distance over someone else's rewards.
  • We gather in large groups of many different species, but cluster closely with our own kind.
  • We soar beautifully.
  • Occasionally we like to stand alone, off to the side, out on the edge, away from the crowd.
  • We breed easily with others, creating something new, indistinguishable, unique, and unidentifiable.
  • We thrive everywhere.

Please feel free to add, delete, adjust, mock, or decry as you wish.

Hasta la proxima.

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