Sunday, April 24, 2011
The Pelicans of San Diego
We were in San Diego this week, staying in a 12-story condo right on the beach. Our tiny balcony looked out over the Pacific Ocean and we all spent a good amount of time standing in the open sliding-glass doorway, just looking. A steady wind came in off the ocean, carrying the sound of the surf up and into our room.
Often, long lines of pelicans flew by—some lines headed north, others south. They were in check-mark formations sometimes as long as 30 birds. In short order, they became my favorite part of the trip. A few of the birds were so close to the balcony that I could have touched them. None of the birds ever made a sound. Most hardly even flapped their wings, though sometimes a wave of wing-flapping would make its way down the line as each bird in its turn passed through a disturbance in the air and reacted just like the bird ahead of it did. Whenever this happened I was reminded of doing “the wave” at Thursday night’s Padres-Phillies game.
From ground level the pelicans were just as fascinating to watch. One afternoon Isabel and I were walking along the shoreline path. Due to the perfect arrangement of sun, building, and birds, we saw the shadows of a long line of pelicans zooming down the face of our building—temporary peregrines. The birds were doing their low-energy glide up above while their shadows were averting disaster, pulling out of their dives at the last possible second and skimming miraculously over the ground, the cars, even us.