Monday, March 30, 2009

Pelican colony at beach in Todos Santos

The oasis and old mission town of Todos Santos at the Pacific Coast in Baja California was off-the-beaten-path for a long time until a paved road was built in the 1980s to connect Todos Santos with La Paz. While human migration through and presence in the Todos Santos area is relatively recent, whale and bird migration is going on for a long time. The lagoon and bird sanctuary of Todos Santos is a resting and nesting stop for migrating birds. The picture shows a colony of brown pelicans at the beach between the lagoon and the ocean. Although this coastal bird species is named brown pelican, it often looks more grayish-brown. Two-weeks-old pelicans are covered with white down, turning darker while they get older.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Brown pelicans and brown noddies feeding on fish together

The brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) is the only pelican species known to catch fish by divebombing. Upon emerging from a dive, a pelican shakes the water from its plumage and drains the water from its pouch to be able to swallow the fish. Brown pelicans of the Galápagos Islands are often followed by brown or common noddies (Anous stolidus), tropical seabirds of the tern family. The behavioral scientist Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt reports the following from his Galápagos expedition:
After a pelican caught fish, a brown noddy was landing on his head and tried to get a piece of the pelican's catch. With each catch, a pelican picks up many litres [over a gallon] of water into his flexible pouch. It releases this water by slightly opening its bill, while pointing the bill downward. Only thereafter, a pelican can swallow the remaining fish. During this procedure, the brown noddy is waiting for the pelican to open its bill, hoping to prey on some pieces while the pelican is tossing and swallowing its catch.
Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt: Galápagos. Die Arche Noah im Pazifik. 2. Auflage, Piper Verlag GmbH, München, Mai 2001; pages 369-371. Cited text freely translated from German by Axel Drefahl.

Keywords: brown noddy, brown pelican, pouch, divebombing, fish catch
Stichwörter: Braune Seeschwalbe, braune Pelikan, Kehlsack, Stoßtauchen, Fischbeute

Watching pelicans and sea lions

Pelicans and sea lions can be watched from both sides of the surf. Hiking a coastal trail or beach in California will give you a good chance to find a neighborhood with both species. John Steinbeck reports his observation of pelicans and a sea lion from a boat off-shore:
The Western Flyer [...] rolled heavily and straightened. The north wind drove down on our tail, and we headed south [from Monterey] with the big swells growing under us and passing, so that we seemed to be standing still. A squadron of pelicans crossed our bow, flying low to the waves and acting like a train of pelicans tied together, activated by one nervous system. For they flapped their powerful wings in unison, coasted in unison. It seemed that they tipped a wavetop with their wings now and then, and certainly they flew in the troughs of the waves to save themselves from the wind. They did not olok around or change direction. Pelicans seem always to know exactly where they are going. A curious sea-lion came out to look us over, a tawny, crusty old fellow with rakish mustaches and the scars of battle on his shoulders. He crossed our bow too and turned and paralleled our course, trod water, and looked at us. Then, satisfied, he snorted and cut for shore and some sea-lion appointment. They always have them, it's just a matter of getting around to keeping them.

John Steinbeck: The Log From the Sea of Cortez. Penguin Books, New York, 1995 (originally published by The Viking Press in the United States of America in 1941); page 26.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Good-bye whales!

Like almost every place along the coast of the Californias, Todos Santos in Baja California is a town with an eye on migrating whales. In spring, humpback and gray whales are on their way north. The children of Todos Santos celebrate the seasonal departure of the whales with colorful paintings. The painting above shows just two of the beautifully illustrated whales—as a child sees or imagines them— exhibited at the Casa de la Cultura. The exhibit, that includes further educational information on whale biology, is introduced with the following words (in Spanish):
Festival de despedida de temporada de Ballena de Gris Y Jorobada en Todos Santos

A brown painting of a pelican

Brown pelicans are part of the life at beaches and in coastal towns of Baja California. This pelican has been painted on a wall in the entryway of the Palacio Municipal (City Hall) in el centro (downtown) San José del Cabo, Mexico.

Friday, March 27, 2009

On the sculpture trail: Giraffes in San José del Cabo

Giraffes at an unexpected location: These two long-necked animals are standing at a corner of the Plaza Mijares in downtown San José del Cabo, Baja California, Mexico. The plaza and its neighborhood is a pedestrian-friendly (and obviously giraffe-friendly) part of town.

On the sculpture trail: commemoration sculpture

This sculpture stands in front of the de Young Museum in the Golden Gate Park of San Francisco at the spot, according to its placard, where the “first shovel full of earth was turned with ceremonies on August 24-th, 1893.” The sculpture has been placed in commemoration of the Inauguration of the CALIFORNIA MIDWINTER INTERNATIONAL EXPOSITION.
The copper- and-brass sheathed building of the de Young Museum and its tower with the observation platform can be seen in the background.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

On the sculpture trail: without fear near the sphere

A sphere is not a sphere. Not, if you inspect spheres sculptured by the Italian artist Arnaldo Pomodoro (born in 1926 in Morciano in Italy, now living and working in Milan). Pomodoro's spheres open up and show a fascinating inner life. They can be found in various places. The Sfera (the Italian word for sphere), shown here, is located next to the de Young Museum in the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. There, this Sfera #2 bronze sculpture from 1963 joins other sculptures in an inspiring outdoor setting. Walk around the sphere and let your eyes walk around and inside the sphere. Imagine being an ant, crawling all over and inside the sphere and experiencing an infinite number of trails!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

On the sculpture trail: Joggers in Davis

Joggers can be seen alone or in groups. In downtown Davis, California, you can find a pair—a man and a woman jogging in opposite directions without moving away from each other. They are The Joggers, a sculpture by Anthony Natsoulas. These two life-sized bronze figures were commissioned by the City of Davis in 1986 as part of the Art in Public Places Program.
I wonder, where the female jogger is pointing at?