Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Dog owners happy-to-disobey beach rules and threaten seabirds

"Oh, isn't it so cute the way my dog chases the birds?"

See Spot run wild and free! (Free as a bird?)

I understand, BUT... did you know?

Dogs and humans can be the deciding factor on whether an injured, tired or distressed bird lives or dies. And it's against the rules to bring your animals onto Port Hueneme beach.

I post the rules here. First, in English:

#3007 Dogs Must Be on a Continuously-Held Leash
#4008 No Animals on Sand (Seaward side of Pathways)

Then in Spanish:

#3007 Se Requiere Perros en Correa Agarrada en Mano
#4008 No se Permiten Animales en la Arena (Paseo-lado de la Playa)

I found myself witnessing a pelican's nightmare tonight when I strolled the beach at sunset. I am posting my experience as an illustration of my point.

When I first spotted the tired guy, he was trying to negotiate the high waves.
He was definitely coming in.

Once he got to shore, I made a wide girth around him to take this shot:
In the next photo, you can see where he stood in comparison to Port Hueneme Pier in the background:

I stood by and kept an eye on him. And then I saw the man and woman with their two little dogs. I thought, "Well, that's cool. At least they're keeping them on a leash." But then they were getting awfully close to the pelican, and I was starting to get concerned.

As I stood in view and took this photo, it had not been in my wildest imagination that this man would actually unleash his dogs right there where the tired pelican rested on shore. What the... ? And the two little dogs ran straight for him. I screamed, "No. No!!" But it was too late. The pelican did what all tired birds do when threatened, they go back into the sea. And he was having a hard time. He was too tired to fly, and he wasn't swimming either, more like just floating in the surf, his wings falling limp on both sides. He was just really tired, and I knew it. I was so angry at the stupid dog owners!

But despite this inconsiderate act, the little guy came back to shore, and walked slowly up the beach until he got to a safe resting place, by all the leftover dredge from the harbor (which I will be posting about soon). I also had to tell a group of boys with fishing poles to stay clear of the pelican. If he went back into the water again, I didn't think his chances would be good.

There are many threats to the wildlife in this huge seaport. As the ship sailed out of port, I sent a little energy to the pelican.

I will return to check on him first thing in the morning. Rest well, little guy.
And please, please, proud dog owners, if you're going to break the beach rules, do so with caution and consideration of these precious wild creatures.
There is also disturbing pelican news from the International Bird Rescue Research Center. (What's causing fatigued pelicans to drop from the sky?)

Friday, January 2, 2009

The cormorants came back

Happy New Year to humans and birds alike.

In my previous post (Dec 30), I said I would return to the beach the following morning with my camera, because I thought I had seen a pair of cormorants diving for fish beyond the breakers that day. And I hadn't taken my camera with me. I did return early the next morning, camera hanging over my shoulder, and there they were; the cormorants had come again.

I feel a kinship with these birds now, as well as the grebes.

Something had caught my eye through the viewfinder after I had found the pair of cormorants again. I snapped a photo of what I thought was a pelican landing, judging by the large wingspan. But when I looked out in the water, there were now three cormorants. I knew the third had just joined the other two. According to the book, "Introduction to Birds of the Southern California Coast," cormorants fly with rapid wing beats and neck extended. And when they hit the water, they skid to a halt. I think I captured this skidding-to-a-halt thing here.

I tried to determine what kind of cormorants these were, as I knew they were the same as my cormorant I had lost.

However, I am limited by my point-and-shoot Fujifilm Finepix S8000fd camera. Eventually, I'd like to upgrade to the Finepix S100fs, for those sharper images and optical zoom. I'd like to upgrade myself to advanced amateur photographer, too. The photo below is the closest in distance I could get with my current zoom. By this photo, I determined that all the cormorants I had seen were Brandt's Cormorants, and not the Double-crested or Pelagic cormorants.

The Brandt's Cormorants are the most common cormorant in the Southern California Bight. (See more cormorant photos in my December posts.)