Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Coastside: Pillar Point, Princeton

Pillar Point, just north of Half Moon Bay, is not the best spot for drive-by birding. There's no parking on the narrow road in, when you might spy an egret or great blue heron in the marsh. Once you reach the parking lot, walking is involved, albeit on a smooth, level trail with plenty of benches. But it's an easy, engaging stroll of less than a mile from the parking lot, past the marsh, along the scenic harbor and cliffs, to the open beach.

At any point there are spectacular vistas to contemplate from the benches. Although development keeps creeping along, the coastside retains its secluded fishing-village charm. On Saturday afternoon, the winds were unusually still. There was time to search for birds in the marsh -- we could hear but not spot them. Several large grebes were cavorting in the harbor, diving like aquacade swimmers. Once we reached the beach, there were pelicans galore.

Brown pelicans have a special place in our heart. We had given them up for lost years ago, when their eggs were collapsing due to DDT in the food chain. Now, every time I see them, I feel like Moses and the rainbow. They are a gift of hope, that we can choose to change our behavior, andsave other creatures from extinction.

Dozens of brown pelicans were flying overhead, rarely diving to feed. They would fly up to the top of the cliff--"Party at the giant golf ball" exclaimed James, alluding to the strange research dome on the research facility. Then they'd catch a thermal and glide out over the open sea.

The low tide revealed rock outcroppings offshore, with cormorants and pelicans perched on the crest, and two dozen somnolent sea lions basking on a ledge. Nothing spectacular. Just a quiet, restorative afternoon in a beautiful place.

Afterwards we cruised the fishing pier, and found another clutch of pelicans happily bobbing in the shallows near the kayak rental stand, as placid and unafraid as a bevy of mallards.

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