Sunday, March 29, 2009

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.

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