Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pelican Rescue

I found a pelican yesterday.

In my 300 and some days of beach walks, I have not once--until yesterday--found a pelican parked on the sand. I approached the bird to see if it would fly. It did not. When I got within three feet or so I backed off and observed for a bit. The pelican was alert. It was looking around and flexing its wings, but the wings seemed asymmetrical. I decided I would try to get in touch with some sort of bird rescue. Given the fact that the only breeding colonies for the California brown pelican in the western United States are just off shore in the Channel Islands, and that the bird only made it off the federal endangered species list in 2009, I figured a 411 call would be pretty straightforward.


I decided to call the marine mammal rescue hot line that I put in my phone earlier this summer, thinking they could refer me. The outgoing message from was a weary sounding guy saying that his number was not the correct one for marine mammal rescue. He did however give out the correct number, but that number yielded a very long and detailed outgoing message including a list of every animal that qualified as a marine mammal. Meanwhile the pelican on the sand was still flapping one wing.

I think I tried 411 again, and got another couple numbers. Both were recorded messages. One was up in Santa Barbara. The other was a hummingbird rescue.

I called daughter C. Now living in St Paul, she's spent a lot of time sailing in these parts. Since I do not have a smart phone, she got on the internet for me and gave me a couple more numbers. I was thrilled to hear the voice of a real person, and the young woman on the line was very enthusiastic. "Oh! Can you transport the bird to us?" she asked. For a second I imagined myself hitch hiking, the immense bird tucked under my arm with my jacket thrown over its head in order to help it remain calm. But I came to my senses. These rescuers were in Malibu, I think, and did not travel this far north.

After a bit of pondering, I decided to call Harbor Patrol. A couple of time a day, and every evening about the time I'm ready to go to bed, I see their boat pass by my house. A real live person answered the phone. The guy asked me a few questions. Was their any blood? Was the bird in any visible distress? What were the nearest cross-street? "Okay," he said. "I'll call the bird lady. She'll be by to get the pelican as soon as she can."

I decided that I should hang around. What if a big dog was galloping down the beach off-leash? I'd have to call my mom and explain that I would be home late. I was already 20 minutes behind my usual arrival time for retuning from my morning walk. As I pulled my phone out one more time, I walked a little closer to the pelican...and he lifted off. The pelican flew a few feet and landed back on the sand. I followed, and then the bird took off again and flew away.

But I'm going to find out who this bird lady is and put her number in my phone.

And did you know that the brown pelican is the only pelican that's a plunge diver? It's breathtaking.

My mom and I were spellbound last February when they were diving right outside our windows.


Elizabeth said...

Oh, an unexpected turn! And that photo of you and your mother at the window is priceless, especially because we know what you're looking at --

Ms. Moon said...

The pelican is one of my favorite birds. I have been watching them since I was a little girl. They are prehistoric and majestic. Where we are about to go visit, the first National Wildlife Refuge was set aside for them by Teddy Roosevelt.
I am proud of you for making sure that bird was going to be okay.