Friday, February 5, 2010

Hands on

Do you know this bird?

From this angle, perhaps it's hard to be sure, because it's signature beak, with pouch, is seemingly smaller than in reality.

I found this brown pelican perched on the end of a pier, enjoying the sun and not inclined to find me at all spooky.

Years ago, I had an even closer encounter with a pelican. I was jogging on Santa Monica beach with a friend when we saw a pelican being thrashed in the shorebreak. We waded in, my heroic friend jumped into a wave and grabbed the bird. We saw it was wrapped in fishing line, which had pinned its wings.

Once on the sand, I held the the bird's body, while my friend unraveled the line. Those birds are bigger and heavier than you might image, and he wasn't at all relaxed like the bird in my photo. But eventually, we folded the wings back in place, me still hanging on, while my friend tried to remove fish hooks that were embedded inside that pouched beak.

Oh, my. There were maybe a dozen hooks, some very old and rusty and not easily dislodged. By this time, we had drawn a small crowd. Someone with a pocket knife helped cut line and pry at the hooks.

Bird lice start running up my arms. Eek. Yuck. Freak out. But I didn't let go. I am forever grateful to a woman who brushed them off me as they came.

After we had done all that could be done, everybody stood back, and I released my grip and scooted back myself. At first, the pelican just stood there, shivering. Then he spread his wings. I was astounded at how immense they were. The sea breeze ruffled his feathers. He just let it blow across him. As minutes ticked by, I began to worry that he was too injured to fly. But then in the blink, a heartbeat, he flapped off, straight across the sea. And was gone.

I like to hope he didn't succumb to injuries but lived a long life for a pelican.

Yesterday, I was on a different pier (I get around) and it was dark. I had taken a deliciously mysterious after-sunset walk by the shore and then wandered onto the wooden pier. I was thinking about my novel-in-progress, which takes place in and around the sea. I looked up to enjoy a scarf of clouds and then saw the Big Dipper. Suddenly, I had an idea for my novel and pulled out my tiny notebook and started scribbling, while glancing up. I drew another crowd--or at least I stopped a group of people walking the pier who all stared up to see what wonder I must be seeing. I mean, I was taking notes, right? Ha!

Have you, my eccentric writing friends, drawn a crowd lately?

Oh! and P.S. I meant to thank two wonderful bloggers for giving me awards recently. I received both awards before so I won't do any passing along this time. But if you haven't visited these ladies, please do. Jemi Fraser included me in the Circle of Friends and Carolina Valdez Miller bestowed a Silver Lining. Thanks again!


Tamika: said...

Birds have lice! Ack! You a brave woman.

Jemi Fraser said...

I was thinking the same as Tamika! So glad you were able to save the bird.

Rather than draw a crowd, my muttering as I walk probably scares people away. I have my iPod going, so I don't always know when I'm actually talking out loud. Not good. :)

Donna said...

Love the pelican rescue story. My favorite pelican experience was the flock of eight that paddled around a tree in the lake, each raising its outer wing in unison. It was like a ballet.

Unknown said...

Is that sunshine recent? Nice pic of the bird, but what really got me was the sun....

dolorah said...

The only place I've seen a pelican lately has been in the rice fields; the one's the duck hunters fill. Doubt they shoot those though.

Weird as it may seem, I have a bar I go to once in a while and take my notebook and do some writing. (Just impossible to write at home sometimes, and I really do like loud live music.) I don't do it often because, as you saw yourself, something about that notebook always draws a crowd; which is why I didn't stay home in the first place.

Lovely pictures, and story. You should write a happy ending for your bird. That would not only include a long life, but a lack of lice too.


Carolina M. Valdez Schneider said...

What an inspirational story. How brave you are. Birds scare me. Not sure why. Blame it on Alfred Hitchcock perhaps. And now you, with your bird lice bit. Ha!

I love the image of you stopping to write into your notebook, your eyes flashing upwards every few seconds towards the heavens. That alone feels like a scene out of a book. I do the same sort of thing...stopping in the middle of a sentence to write down a wayward thought, an idea that has come to me. Though, I don't think it's drawn a crowd yet ;) Perhaps someday it will. Perhaps.

Thanks for the mention, sweetie. You were most deserving of your awards, many times over.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Tamika: Oh, yes, and it's creepy when they crawl on you.

Jemi: Ha! I now have an image of people glancing, furtively, as you go muttering by.

Donna: Pelicans can be amazingly graceful. I love to watch them skim just above water surface. I like to imagine your ballet image, too.

Elle: Yup. I'm Southern California. We've had sun in between rains.

DonnaH: Oh, the picture of you drawing a crowd with your notebook in a bar is priceless!

Carolina: The Birds is a terrifying movie! And guess what? After I saw it, a bird flew smack into my window. Scared the bejeebers out of me.

Anonymous said...

I've never gotten to see a real pelican, we don't have them here in NZ. But after watching the movie "Storm Boy" in the very early 80's, I changed my pet ducks name to Mr. Percival to match the pelican in the story and pretended he was a pelican for awhile, does that count?

I think your story is wonderful, you're awesome Tricia :)

Bish Denham said...

That's a wonderful thing you did for the pelican. You know the brown pelican is endangered? When they dive into the water after fish they dive with their eyes open so they can see. Over time they go blind from hitting the water so hard. You can spot older pelicans because they don't fly very high and make shallow dives. In time, if something else doesn't get them, they starve to death....

As for drawing a crowd. Long ago in New York City me and a couple of friends stood on a corner looked up and occasionally pointed. In no time there was a ring of people around us looking up and pointing. Of course, except for the tall buildings, we weren't looking or pointing at anything! What a hoot!

Unknown said...

Aww, what a great story. You got lots of good karma points. :) I've never drawn a crowd with my writing.

Liza said...

I've only seen pelicans South Carolina...but you had me seeing one this morning. I'm impressed, with your story, with the writing, and with the fact that you were so engaged in recording what you saw that a crowd formed. Now that's talent.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Wendy: Since I am all for imagination, I say Percival counts. ;)

Bish: I had never heard about them going blind before. That's an amazing bit of information. One of my pleasures is watching those knife-sharp dives they make, and I can understand how their eyes might eventually suffer.
I believe they were removed from the Endangered Species list a few months ago. It is one of the success stories of that legislation. After DDT was banned, they began a slow recovery that has taken decades, but appears to have worked.
I love your NYC story!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Karen: I have absolutely no doubt you are going to draw crowds with your writing!

Liza: Aw, shucks, thank you!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

More on Blindness:
Bish, I was so intrigued by your comment, I went researching it (I'm a former reporter,and can't help myself). It turns out that the pelicans don't go blind from the diving but from injury, disease or pollution, according to ornithologists.

storyqueen said...

Dang! That is a helluva fat pelican! They always look so, well, streamlined and narrow as they cut across the sky. I never thought of them as chubby little guys.


Your first draft of Sea Daughters will be finished within 5 days.


P.S. If you don't like predictions, I suppose you could take it as a dare....

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Shelley!!! Well, I don't know that I can finish in five days, but since you dare me, I'm going to change my weekend plans and dive in to that story like a pelican after a fish.

(And as for the pier pelican, he may be fat due to the easy pickings left by fishermen.)

Tess said...

Beautiful pictures. I adore your photography.

Donna said...

A dare! Since you're a WriMo winner, I bet you'll take Shelley up on this. Go pelican pal, go!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Tess: Thank you, my friend.

Donna: Well, I'm not gonna make NaNo numbers but I have been writing most of today and plan to do the same tomorrow. It was a good nudge.

Sherrie Petersen said...

I love these photos!

Pelicans are actually one of my favorite birds. We were admiring them Thursday as we strolled the breakwater in Santa Barbara. But I'm pretty sure the bird lice would have sent me running. Ick!

Yvonne Osborne said...

Great pictures as always. Can't believe you got that close. I had a recent walk on a pier too. Well...actually a breakwater with the wind blowing out of the north and the frozen ice and snow beneath moving eerily with the wave action underneath. Something off world.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Sherrie: Thanks! I adore them, especially watching them skim above waves, a line of them, wingtips almost touching the water, So beautiful in flight.

Yvonne: Thank you. I think he may have been old or a pier dweller, because he was completely laid-back about me creeping up so close.
Oh my, that description you gave of the wave action under frozen ice is dynamite.

Linda Kage said...

Tricia, our hero!!

I've never drawn a crowd like that, but I've never rescued a bird (or anything else for that matter) before either. What a happy story.


J.B. Chicoine said...

You managed to get me all choked up and then laughing in the same post!

I have never drawn a crowd. In fact, I’d rather be stripped naked and chased down Main Street by an angry mob, than draw a crowd (for that reason, I don't draw in public--even if it's the crowd I'm drawing)

Robyn Campbell said...

Awww, I love all animals and that story made me feel so proud to know you, bird lice and all. =)

I have drawn a crowd. I thought it was just me in the isle at Walmart. So I was having an argument between my two girls in SEVENTY TWO HOURS. You know trying to see how it needed to play out. Well, there were people staring. YIKES! Needless to say I got the heck out of dodge. Fast!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Linda: eeeks. I've never been a hero. That's daunting. In fact, I shall keep that in mind for the inner workings of my hero/heroine. Good lightbulb moment.

JB: Ha! I'm pretty much an introvert, but years as a news reporter forced me to learn how to handle it.
Drawing in public would be unnerving if they stand over your shoulder, gawking. I wouldn't be good at that, either.

Robyn: I'm rolling in the aisles!!! I can picture you muttering and then looking up. Too funny.

gayle said...

What an amazing story, Pat--thanks for sharing it! I've always felt a sort of maternal protectiveness toward pelicans after writing The Book of Dead Birds, and love what lengths you took to save this one bird. Beautiful!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Hi Gayle. It's funny when you do something like that, you do it without thinking. It was either save the bird from dying in the surf or walk away, and my friend and I couldn't turn our backs.
And, by the way, anyone reading this who hasn't read Gayle's The Book of Dead Birds is missing out on an extraordinary tale.