|A coast guard vessel heads out to the open sea.|
Charleston Harbor, Oregon, USA
I was in a fog a couple of days ago ..... but the right kind of fog. Cool, damp fog. There was a breeze to go with it. Enough of a breeze to stir the pot of fog, sometimes making it thicker, sometimes making it thinner. Mostly it was the coolness I appreciated. It had turned hot inland again and we came to the coast for some coolness. It felt wonderful standing outside letting the chill seep in.
When we arrived at the end of the little dike road in Charleston Harbor there were about a hundred gulls clustered on the small sandy beach and two big terns, probably Caspian terns. It was too foggy to see the terns all that well, and they left soon anyway. Dale and I sat in the car and munched on our traditional coast lunch: a nice big shrimp cocktail, veggies, cheese, and crackers. Yum. A foghorn droned softly in the distance. Various boats emerged and then disappeared back into the fog.
Then a brown pelican flew in and another. The two landed on the sand just a few feet from the gently lapping waves. Charleston Harbor is far enough up the Coquille River to eliminate any ocean swell, but the water still rises and sinks with the tides. The tide was near high and not much beach left. One of the pelicans popped back up into the air and splashed down only about ten feet from its starting point. Success. He quickly gulped down a small fish and then returned to the sand.
Soon more pelicans arrived, until we had 6 juveniles an one adult. One by one they rose up and floated about forty feet above the water. A pelican’s bill points forward when he is traveling, and mostly down when he is searching for fish. These had their bills downwards. It took just one plunge for me to hop out of the car with my camera. I picked a spot to stand where I was partially hidden by rip rap and long beach grasses. Mostly I think the fog help to soften my silhouette. I stood about 50 yards from shoreline, and the pelicans were fishing just off the shoreline.
Young pelicans are mostly grey brown, the fog just made them look a little duller. The one adult has white on its head, also softened by the fog. I watched one and then another soar by, bill down, and suddenly turn and flare. When he first spots a fish, he looks rather ungainly, but then the wings go back, the neck stretches out, and he plunges in, almost disappearing. A quick little gulp when he comes up tells me he was successful. Sometimes when a pelican fishes they seem to come up with a gallon of water in their pouch, but not these. Maybe little fishes mean little gulps.