Pelicans (Day 110)

It was a spectacular morning.

Colleen joined me again and as we swam out the sun rose behind us in pinks and purples and grays and golds, the clouds shaded and highlighted in changing colors as the morning progressed; the water a tangle of light.

In front of us, a group of California brown pelicans swooped over our heads. They scoured the water for fish and executed dramatic, steep dives, crashing into the waves to scoop up breakfast.

It was a stunning display of these birds who nearly went extinct in the middle of the last century. The widespread use of DDT thinned their eggs and caused them to break in their nests, ultimately decimating the population by 90%. Since the abolition of DDT fifty years ago they have made a gradual comeback and were taken off the endangered species list in 2009.

It’s a good story about the difference environmental policies can make for species survival, but, like many good stories, it’s also more complicated than that. California brown pelicans continue to face pressure from our damaged and depleted ecosystems. Locally, periodic periods of starvation and nesting failure have resulted from dwindling sardine populations (itself attributable to warming waters and overfishing). 

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