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Stories by Mike Humfreville

Pelican Migrations at Gecko    ( Posted December 28, 2003 )

We arrived at Gecko from the south and after a week's heavy touring. Soon we were amidst pals sitting quietly beside the campfire, sharing small stories and meeting new friends until we fell into our beds before midnight. By then the camp was silent and nestled amidst a billion stars and a single slice of moon twist.

I awoke early the next morning. Only the fishermen were up and headed out for the day. Then I was the only one awake. I moved my chair to the west side of the hut for a slender piece of shade as the sun climbed over the islands, focused my interest on "Beachcombing at Miramar" by Richard Bode.

As I read, a great throng of Pelicans, hundreds at first, then thousands, are soaring aloft in small flocks. They seem adrift, with no purpose, individual groups at different altitudes and directions. They are not working together. This continues for an hour or more as others in camp stir awake, join me in the shade of a hot morning.

Doc enters the scene, making early morning housecalls and his rounds to determine that all is well in camp. We note the pelicans that are now starting to incorporate their small flocks into a greater coordinated whole. They are united and circling together in a great mass of flesh and feathers and gaining altitude, swirling en masse like a turbulent hurricane in a clockwise direction.

"They are trying to migrate to the west coast, to the Pacific," Doc informs us. "Every year they move over the mountains, but this year we've had so many west winds they haven't been able to make it out yet." Several of us watch at length as the entire team swells into the rising updrafts and heads west toward the towering precipitous mountains it must climb above. We watch until the band is reduced to a number of dots on the horizon. It become invisible and we lose interest, go about our early morning chores. We're rapt on human issues of breakfast and boating.

Before long, the pelicans are back, exhausted and diving for the cooling water in the Sea of Cortez, recovering from their failed attempt. We watch this for several mornings with the same result. The west winds are too forceful to permit pelican passage over the mountains.

Then the weather takes a turn. The pattern shifts. High humidity is working up the gulf. Smith's volcano is laden with a halo of clouds, typical of weather sent here from the south. The true name of Smith island is Coronado, corona; a crown. I wonder just how many hundred of years ago an ancient voyager, a Spaniard, Mexican or Indian, observed this same phenomenon of clouds forming over her volcano and recorded my islands name in Earth's memory somewhere.

Somehow, this mysterious change of weather has caused the westerlies to become less intense, working in the favor of the pelicans we now observe daily during their early morning vigilance, and watch in their struggles to ascend the peaks preventing them from reaching their more productive waters to the west. The weather is now in their favor.

I feel at one with them and their efforts. They have learned to live amidst the Earth's grand system of resources without disturbing. They have learned patience and tolerance. How frustrated they must have been, daily sensing the weather, flying aloft at various altitudes to test the winds. Now I understand why they were so broken into small groups, to check different areas and resistances, updrafts and airlifts spilling one way or another across the peaks of the mountains where they separated the east and west coasts of the rugged peninsula we share. Now I understand their final confluence and merging into a single team, each pulling in support of the whole, to conquer the mountain standing between them and the promised land of fish galore.

So many aspects I watch in nature in Baja just seem to work together; eventually everything works out. The birds have habits supported by wind norms. The oceans and seas have norms that support the winds and the birds. The reproductive processes of sea and land life and consumption thereof all work together in a balance. A single shift in the weather is the key to unlocking the door and lets some complex process come to rest. Another shift changes the aspects of another lifeform and another process is at peace.

During this time, many mornings warmly watching the pelicans in their efforts, I finish the Bode Book. He was searching for an inner peace and found it, at least for awhile, beachcombing at Miramar. I wonder how long his peace lasted; did he continue into his wondering and questioning lifestyle, the one he discovered after his previously hyped life was over? Or did he return to the fray? And where will I go from here? I ask myself.

A day or two before we were to leave Bahia de Los Angeles to return to our hyped world to the north, I was sitting, early and in the shade and...watching pelicans. The winds must have been good for them that day. I watched as they went through their paces of checking the breezes at various altitudes and coming together and climbing higher and higher and turning from the southern sectors of the Bay and toward the west. I watched as they continued their climb and faded into the distance. I had to find my binoculars to actually see them clearing the summits of the final range. By then they were just a furry blur on the horizon. I was with them in a sense. I could feel the cooler Pacific wind in their faces, the heavier, more buoyant air providing lift and easing their efforts. I was in their heads for only a moment before they were gone. Some primordial sense made them go, year after year through this phenomenon. It was part of life on a small planet that I might have missed if I hadn't the leisure of early morning shade, a simple chair and bare feet in warm sand. And, of course, the grand pelicans.

Copyright 2003-2006 Mike Humfreville

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