Monday, March 28, 2011

A brief encounter with pelicans

Here's a pelican on the Redondo Pier that someone other than me photographed nicely.

It's a new week, but while the weekend is still fresh in my head, I thought I'd give you one of my every-so-often reports on the wildlife in my home town of lovely Redondo Beach, CA.

Yesterday (Sunday March 27, 2011), my ladyfriend Kat suddenly and distressingly was hit with vertigo. Having had the old room-spinny feeling a few times myself, I asked her if it got worse when she moved the directional orientation of her head, and she confirmed this strongly. That's the hallmark of an inner ear infection, and a short while later, we were in the car and headed for our local immediate care center, which I like to call the "Doc in a Box". Ocean Medical is actually a fine practice, and I've received good care there for close to 20 years.

It's been kind of blustery weather around here recently, but Sunday started clearing up about the time Kat, my son, and I took off toward the doc's. Going inside the clinic with Kat, I was happily amazed to see that there was not a single soul in the waiting room, a rare luxury. After making sure Kat was set up to be seen, I got back in the car and took the Boy to McDonald's upon his request (I would have been much happier with lunch from Hennessey's Tavern in Riviera Village or even Fatburger on PCH, but there's no accounting for a 5th grader's taste). After grabbing some unhealthy sustenance, we drove back down toward the Avenues in South Redondo so we'd be close when Kat's appointment was done. I drove down the Esplanade, and then up Paseo de la Playa for a block. Surprisingly, there was some street parking available, and the Kid and I sat in the car, eating our respective burgers and looking out at the nice view of bluffs on the north side of Palos Verdes.

It must be lunchtime in Pelicanland.

Pelican Squadron
As we sat there enjoying the quickly-warming day, windows down and parked next to the beach, a large shadow blocked the sun for a moment. I glanced up and there was a fascinating sight: six pelicans in a tight-wing formation, looking every bit as coordinated as a team of Blue Angels. Pelicans, when you see them up close, are freakin' huge. They weigh upwards of 30 pounds, and can have a wingspan of nearly 10 feet. Combined with the extended beak they sport, pelicans can look like teams of dragons flying out of a Tolkein novel at first glance.

Our pelicans around here are common California Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus), but makes them no less awesome than anything, ever. Despite having grown up here and having spent nearly my entire life within a short walk of the Pacific Ocean, I'm glad I don't take for granted things like seeing flocks of huge seabirds, or pods of dolphins swimming by. Anyway, it must have been that time of day when the pelicans all head south for some good fishing, before making their way back north around sunset. After that first batch came another, and then another. Finishing our lunch, the Kid and I hopped out of the car and sauntered over to the edge of the lot above the strand, and watched as the teams of pelicans in varying-sized groups fly directly over us, seemingly close enough to reach up and touch.

Over the next 20 minutes, we probably saw 80 pelicans cruise by. We also had a laugh when a large crow (still a lot smaller than his pelican pals) decided to pretend to be a pelican, and adopted the same fixed-wing flight style, cruising along with a group as they soared down the beach. Sometimes it's those little things that form long-term memories, and hopefully the Boy enjoyed our pelican watch as much as I did.

With my boyfriend radar ping getting louder, I told the Kid it was time to go, and I had to cackle at my good timing as we pulled into the clinic's parking lot just as Kat was walking out and calling us. She got in, and another McDonald's run was needed (this time for her, upon smelling a car freshly perfumed by french fries), and then headed home. But I'd have to say that the pelican observation was the highlight of an otherwise mediocre weekend. Kat, by the way, has all manner of pills that will help her get better soon, so perhaps on a coming weekend, we can go down to the edge of the water again (without it being a side-trip for a doctor visit) and enjoy some more of my local flavor. Nature... you awesome.

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