Wednesday, August 26, 2009


They are here. There are hundreds of thousands of them, although it looks like it could easily be a million. A hint of the number of fish just below the surface. I did a shaky 43 second pan of the action. It went on and on and on.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Six Months Later

(February 19, 2009)
In February there were secrets here. Life at its beginning. Egg sacs and caterpillars. The stages of things unseen. Late winter sleep. Early spring promise.

(August 20, 2009)
We see them now. Their lives are as brown and gold as these fields. Wings are ragged and tattered. We hike all the way down, past where the parched field drops off.

We hear it now. It's in the wind fanning the leaves. A sound that we know right away. A change in the seasons.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Good Rescue

We looked out the window and could see the wharf covered with these bright red (and yellow) fliers. During dinner we guessed at what the text might be and settled on a warning about red tides, harmful algae blooms, and domoic poisoning. We thought it would make an interesting post, especially a look at harmful algae blooms and their history. So, we walked down to the wharf to photograph the fliers and found this text instead. We were surprised.
And, as luck and timing would have it, we caught the local boat and bait shop guy rescuing this brown pelican. (To answer C Corax's question: Yes, it had been tangled in fishing line.)
We'd actually like to see the wharf closed right now. As one of the marine mammal rescue people said to me, we humans can find food anywhere, the pelicans and sea lions have only this.
How true, how very true.
We were delighted to see this successful rescue. But not enough to make us change our minds about the wharf and fishing.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Living and The Dead

One morning last week before the fires, smoke and haze the sun rose in an orange-red sky. We hadn't seen a sunrise like this for most of the summer. Not because we weren't awake, but because the marine layer of fog has been unbelievably persistent. It hangs around the coast until noon or later every day, burns off for a few hours, and then blows back in around 8:00 pm, cooling things off for a perfect sleeping chill. The tomatoes aren't happy about it, even the San Francisco Fog variety grows a tough skin in this weather. But, that's summer on the central coast.
Roger and I didn't want to have to tell you, but RoRo died August 6th. The stranding coordinator responded to my inquiry and wrote, "The cause of death was a trauma wound that caused him to be septic." We really had hoped he would survive. His death made me wonder, though, if our human interventions into their wild lives is a good thing. Who are we to intervene? Put them in weird buildings, probe and prod them? When they die, they do so in places utterly foreign to them. Wouldn't the beach have been a better place to wash up? Really.
I can't stop myself from thinking about this stuff: The role humans have on the planet from the very smallest to the biggest wrecks. We sure seem to make a mess of it. The road to hell and all of that... I know it is easy to argue that had RoRo survived, it would have been worth it. That may be true, but I'm not sure I know how to think for a sea lion. Suddenly we are on his death panel, considering his end of life directives. Is this dominion with a benevolent face? I simply don't know.
There's something about being on the coast, though, that really puts life and death right out there for you to take a good long look. One day we see these animals in pursuit of their prey, rampaging through the water, and gulping other sea life like there's no tomorrow. And the next day there's a large dead sea lion floating just off shore, or a young porpoise dead on the sand. I don't know any other place where large lifeless mammals show up, and demand your attention.
And yes, we would like to protect every last one of these animals from the wreck human contact, but I suddenly wonder if that means protecting them from even the very best of our intentions.

We know this is a touchy subject. For the record, we would stop on the highway and try to pick up an injured bobcat or coyote that had been hit by a car. We would want to disentangle a whale from fishing nets. We utterly admire the work Julie Zickefoose does with injured hummingbirds, and Dave Dorsey and The Bird Learning Center does with eagles and other raptors. I'm trying to grasp the subtle difference between taking sick marine mammals off the beach and to the hospital, and rescuing creatures who would have otherwise been well if not for our inadvertent traps, boat propellers, crushing automobiles, reflective windows, high tension wires, and poisoned earth. There's something ... there's something I can't quite put my finger on yet that leaves me with discomfort about a sick marine mammal dying in a building after being driven up a 100 miles up a highway in the back of a pick up truck. It makes me wonder what we are we doing, and why.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Firefighting- California-Style

This helicopter was flying past our window Thursday evening, taking water to the Lockheed-Bonny Doon Fire. We were a bit surprised to see it. The air doesn't smell of fire yet, but we're pretty sure that's going to change, even though the fire is fifteen or so miles from us. The sky is clear and blue, so that gray is smoke from the blaze. Tonight we raised our glasses and wished all the animals well. We said, "Run fast. Run as fast as you can."

This is a relatively live news report from the bums!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

the one that got away

he (i'm guessing) looks so calm. so, almost tame. and what soft brown eyes. who wouldn't want to pet him?

we started down to the capitola pier this morning to get a closer look at two things out in the water that we couldn't quite see well enough out the window to identify. as we walked out on the pier we saw a sea lion on the main beach, where they don't usually go unless sick or injured. robin went home to call marine mammal rescue and i went down on the beach to warn people away, as we could see they were getting quite close to the animal. i stayed a bit and politely asked people to give the animal a wide berth. most were polite and understanding. several though were rather stuffy and close to rude. i had to leave for a bit to cool off. i watched from the pier and saw the sea lion twice chase after people when they got close. when robin returned we went back on the beach and sat there warning people. a few of the beachgoers helped. when people walked close to the animal we would get up and ask them to stay away. again, most thanked us for warning them to keep some distance from a sick or injured wild animal. a few protested that they didn't mean to disturb it. they didn't even see it. i replied "yes, that's why i warned you."

robin went back home a second time to fetch something to make more of a barrier than the three traffic cones supplied by the lifeguard. she returned with string and a handful of bamboo garden sticks that her brother brought over. so with the help of the nice people we made a big semi-circle perimeter of sticks and twine, open to the ocean. now there was at least a visible line for stupid humans to ignore. most kids were interested and curious and respectful of a sick animal. adults a bit less so.

one woman approached the string line with her two year old girl, who immediately went under the string. mom retrieved her and the child just went right back. she had that look of a kid who will stare right at you run into the street if told not to. she started towards the animal and many people yelled "that's a wild animal! get your kid." the kid was now about ten feet from the sea lion. mom dithered about stepping over the string or walking around. i leapt up, jumped over the string, picked up the child and retreated to safety. i got a snippy "i was going to get her" from mom. two of the men who helped us set up the stringline told me that they would have done the same. i was just a step quicker.

after a long interval marine mammal rescue came. they assessed that the animal was indeed in distress, possibly leptospirosis or domoic acid poisoning. we moved our string and they moved in to capture the sea lion. i wish that the stupid mom was still there to see how it reared up, roared, lunged a good eight feet and shoved through the rescuers to get back in the ocean. the rescue failed. the rescuers watched where the animal went and set off to the next beach south, where it was headed.

this isn't exactly where the sea lion was, but close enough. it was just a bit off to the right. a packed beach on a sunny sunday. to domoic acid poisoning fixed.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: The Update

Please click on the picture. It's a screen shot from the Marine Mammal Center. They keep a record of patients on their website. RoRo {named for Ro(ger) and Ro(bin)} was transported to the main hospital in Sausalito on Roger's birthday. RoRo rocks!

PS -- For you purists, I confess to actually photoshopping RoRo's date of entry because it is was appallingly listed as 8/31/09. We're good, but we're not completely adept futurists!