Each day that I’ve walked past this week, except for today, there has been a cloister of pelicans resting from their migration on the opposite shore of the lagoon. On the island in the next pond over from them there were also a number of egrets spread across the shore.
Yesterday, as I observed the birds, a dog came lumbering by. Its leash was pulled taut with a woman leaning against its weight at the other end. The woman wore a sea green tshirt with the words “Comcast Cares” printed on front.
Today, as I note the birds’ absence, a sea plane circles around to land in the bay behind me. It slows as its skids first skim the surface. Then it lifts off again, circles around and repeats its attempt twice more before it comes to a stop on its fourth attempt.
The water is nearly still on San Rafael Bay at lunchtime.
The lagoon behind me is nearly full for the first time in two months, the salty cracked soil mostly covered. The black necked stilts are wading along the shore with their heads tipped down, studying the water in front of them, the area that can be covered within one or two steps of their springy gait. The bird in front is being chased by the one behind him. They run at double speed, the chased bird calling out little peeps every few steps.
A stray dog has circled around from the opposite shore. He slows when he spots me watching him. When I sneeze suddenly, he turns and flees.
On my rush hour drive home today, a CHP officer stepped out in front of a semi (excuse me, a “big rig”, as they call them here). He gestured for the big rig to stop using a two fisted hammering motion — the closest thing to a wave that he could make while holding two fists together. The car in the next lane slowed in turn and he stepped in front of it. He hammered toward me, in the third lane, and I slowed to a stop. Cars to my left followed suit and the officer crossed the other southbound lanes. A second man, holding his hands out in front of him in the same manner, followed.
The men were carrying something. I looked carefully and realized they were each carrying a fistful of ducklings. They stopped in the carpool lane and looked back toward the right shoulder. I followed their gaze and saw that the mama duck was there toeing the white painted line anxiously. The two men waited and she took a few timid steps into the first lane and then lifted off — taking a skittish flight to the barrier at the freeway median.
The two men climbed over the barrier to repeat their performance across the northbound lanes. Traffic on my side waited for a moment, though there was nothing stopping us from moving. I took the initiative, stepping on the gas. Cars behind me and in the other lanes followed suit. Two hundred yards ahead, I was back in 15 mph traffic.
In the wetland area on the landfill side of the San Rafael seawall, a limber white and black patterned bird tips its black needle-nose beak into the alkaline water. It has twiggy orange legs with ankles at it’s legs’ halfway point — looking like backward bending knees. It stalks something with short springy steps. A couple of sparrows intrude in its space and it takes flight, low over the water, scattering the sparrows.
I think that I should keep a record of the birds that I see there. It will give me a sense of the seasons passing. Later, at home, I check the field guide. A black-necked stilt. It’s non-migratory. It’s not going anywhere.