A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!–Richard III, Shakespeare
As The Beach Writer I spend a good bit of time on the coast, and I spend a lot of my coast time walking. I need and enjoy the exercise, sure, but I walk because it helps me create. As I walk along the beach I see what I can see, and I think about what I can make of it.
Most days I snap an average of 20-50 photos with my iPhone camera, some of which I’ve posted here. I don’t fret about their quality. After all, they are snapshots, a glimpse of what I saw, a reminder of what caught my eye or tickled my brain that day. I don’t usually focus on what I can’t reasonably assume I can capture with the limited capabilities of my “camera.”
That changed last Friday.
I blame the pelicans.
Friday’s walk started out uneventfully. The day was overcast gray and breezy enough to wear a jacket, while not cold enough to stop me from walking barefoot and wading in the surf. In the beginning my husband was walking beside me but then something in the sand caught his eye for a photo and I heard the familiar “go ahead, I’ll catch up.” Soon we were separated by a quarter of a mile or more of beach, and that’s when they buzzed me on the left.
They being the pelicans. A pair of them snuck up from behind, flying no more than a couple of feet above the sand, and passed within 10 feet of me. They flew a couple of football fields ahead and then landed at the water’s edge. They were still there when I reached their landing spot and I noticed that just coming into view in the distance was an entire flock of pelicans mixed in with gulls, terns and skimmers.
The pair basically dared me to take their picture, allowing me to slowly walk within about a dozen feet of them and kneel down in the sand while clicking up a storm with my iPhone. But I wasn’t fooled. I knew I wasn’t going to get anything good. Maybe if it had been sunny I’d have gotten lucky with a couple of shots. But I have taken enough gray day beach photos to know that my iPhone camera can’t handle low lighting and doesn’t have a proper zoom function.
What I needed was the camera and lens that I used when I published the newspaper. That was a “real” camera.
“Where are you?” I asked my husband moments later, having given up on the camera feature and using the iPhone as, surprise, a phone instead. “There are pelicans here!”
Yes, I sounded 12. No, my husband was not shocked. We’ve been married a long time.
As we talked, a jogger approaching from farther down the beach startled the birds flocked ahead and soon all were in flight around, over and past me, making a beeline for my husband.
“They’re coming for you.”
I counted 18 pelicans plus the pair before I lost track. Easily more than two dozen flew past me, the most I’ve seen at one time and certainly the most I’ve seen that close. When I met back up with my husband up the coast, nearly half of the flock was floating just off shore, within wading distance, feeding on something clearly both tasty and abundant.
We watched them together until the wind picked up enough that standing still was undesirable, and then returned home without a single decent photo between us, but at least one shared thought.
It’s time to invest in a “real” camera.