The daybreak cacophony of squawks and splashes sounded like it was inches away from our tent.
We had just spent our first night on the beach in Playa El Burro, Bahia Conception on the Sea of Cortez, about two thirds down the eastern coast of the Baja Peninsula.
It was the southern-most point of our month-long motorcycle trip down the Baja. I had insisted on going at least this far to get some of the hot weather that had been part of my dreams ever since we started planning the trip.
We’d pulled in the day before and set up our camp with the intention of laying around for three or four days before we resigned ourselves to the fact that we would have to turn around and head back north.
I think we may have stayed up a little later than normal celebrating our southern arrival with tequila and local lime.
All I could think of in my half-awake state were the stuff sacks, full of food, that I had hung from a nail on the pole support of the palm frond shelter (a “palapa” that provides the shade that is essential during the mid-day in this part of the world).
I stuck my head out of the tent flap to assess the damage that such a horrendous noise suggested. The food was safe. I can’t say the same for the schools of small fish along the shore that were the focus of the avian attention that was creating all that noise.
“You won’t believe this. Get your camera!” Dainius’ camera has that motor drive feature that allows you to take a lot of pictures in quick succession. There would be no way to choose your shot for this scene, it would need a combination of a volume of pictures and sheer chance.
I’d never seen pelicans feeding before. It is a scene of uncoordinated, spastic chaos.
A third of the birds float on the surface of the water, straining the water from their catch before swallowing. Another third fly above the flotilla with the school of fish beneath it, scanning for opportunity. The last third engage in a most awkward looking dive aimed at scooping up a load of fish.
The word “dive” implies way more grace than this manoeuvre deserves.
This very large bird launches into a dive, head forward, wings folded back, gathering speed. At the last minute before bill hits water, the wings extend in random asymmetry and the entire bird collides with the water causing a huge splash and scattering of any other birds that happen to be in its way.
Multiply this picture by a hundred birds, each cycling through the three different bird jobs (floating, scanning, diving) about every 30 seconds.
You have the picture: a very reliable pelican alarm clock.