Brown Pelicans and Double-crested Cormorants share the waterways of San Francisco Bay.
You know I’m into “mixed use” and reclamation as it relates to viable, urban habitat for wildlife. Seeing a goose, for example, with its wings outstretched against a backdrop of Port of Oakland shipping cranes is just awesome to me. The very land where the goose forages and rests is reclaimed from former wasteland, landfill or pavement — now a thriving habitat that now supports a vast array of waterfowl and shorebirds. Middle Harbor Shoreline is one such place in Oakland, worth a visit for its odd placement. It’s a strip of green space stuffed in one of the country’s busiest, working ports.
These shots were taken in Marin, not at Middle Harbor — in case you drive to Middle Harbor, hoping to see these pelicans.
The downside of this side-by-side existence is the devastating effect on wildlife when something goes awry in the shipping channels — as it did with the Cosco Busan oil spill in 2007. I’ve never adequately described my experience working to rescue birds on that spill. It was one of the most sobering and formative experiences in my work with animals. I dare say, it changed me forever. Someday, I’ll muster the words to relay how it felt to witness that level of suffering in the face of human negligence.
Somewhat related, a commenter at this blog (Tovar) recently posted a piece at his own blog, on the topic of “wildness”: What constitutes “wild” in animals? What does “natural” mean in a habitat sense? It may seem self-serving for me to link out to his post, since Tovar used a few of my photos to illustrate it. That’s actually the reason I know about his post. But I mention it simply for his thoughts on the topic of wildness — as he watched a pair of mallards huddled in an urban puddle. His questions caused me to more deeply consider some of my own notions of wild animals as they live and coexist with us in our human-created environments.
FYI: Tovar is a hunter who addresses some ethical considerations surrounding the practice of hunting, so I do appreciate his thoughtfulness — even if my experience of hunting hasn’t been, as some of you know, all that palatable. In other words, no fisticuffs on the hunting issue today. Maybe on Sunday, though.
In the meantime, enjoy pelicans and cormorants with a view to ferrying, dredging, sailing and yachting. I wonder what they make of it all. Maybe it’s just “dude, you missed a feather.” A day in the life of a preening, San Francisco Pelecanus occidentalis.
The photos: Shot with my E-3 and Zuiko 70-300mm lens. I have a few favorite spots around the Bay where I’m often lucky to commune with pelicans. Well, I’m communing. I’m not sure they see it the same way. That 70-300 lens, as I mention once in a while, is a 600mm equivalent since I’m shooting with a four-thirds camera, meaning crop factor of 2. All of that is to say, I’m usually at quite a distance. At full extension, 300mm, unless the subject/animals is relatively close, I lose sharpness and clarity in my images. The ideal photo usually comes about when I can fill the frame with my subject. Someday, I’d love to have this lens, also a Zuiko. I can only dream of the results shooting with that lens — a seven grand dream.