Friday, July 1, 2011

Watch It IV--The Fish Apocalypse


"I know that human beings and fish can coexist peacefully."

This prophecy, uttered by none other than George W. Bush, has not yet come to pass. Our coastlines are still ravaged with war. This morning, a barrage of mackerel staged an assault on Newport Pier, where bold defenders of the human legacy valiantly attempted to quell the surge with their rods, lines, and hooks. I just watched.

A dozen frantic tails vibrated against the ruthless cement, sending delightful showers skyward. The sun sparkled some, but others remained dark, opaque, and red. Gradually, the symphony of tails experienced a diminuendo, and the accompanying showers weakened to a faint mist, then to nothing. Nothing, except eyes--eyes, wide, unblinking, desperate. Some were stained with red; all were hopeless. As the scores of bodies were dumped into five-gallon buckets, some jerked back to brief life, only to be again overtaken by death. One mackerel, lying on its side on a bed of his fallen comrades, gaped his mouth open and shut, surely reciting "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" in his silent fish language.

During lulls in the battle, when the danger of being snagged with a hook or splashed with blood or entrails abated, I turned my eyes to the mist-shrouded horizon, waiting for the emergence of some pelagic oddity. Pigeon Guillemots, apparently reveling in their continued delinquency, escaped my grasp once again. But, time is on my side. I have the remainder of the summer to resolve this feud.

Newport Pier, Orange, US-CA
Jul 1, 2011 5:38 AM - 8:30 AM
Protocol: Stationary
Comments: Weather: clear, very light breeze (SSW), warm (64-73°F) Morning seawatch--kinda weird to be out seawatching on a sunny morning, which made viewing condition a lot different than usual (e.g., SOSH looked brown, not nondescript black, and the silver blazes on their underwings were really obvious.) Way more fishermen than usual, too, which made viewing a bit difficult. They were also catching a lot more fish than they usually do.
19 species (+2 other taxa)

Pink-footed Shearwater (Puffinus creatopus) 1 Only one, a distant bird fairly early on. Despite the distance, the morning sun made the pink bill readily visible, and the pale belly and underwings were surprisingly obvious.
Sooty Shearwater (Puffinus griseus) 215 Fewer than normal, though still numerous. There was one bird sitting on the water fairly close to shore most of the morning, and oddly it had symmetrical white patches on the wings, presumably from bleaching/molt. Got me excited for PIGU for the first couple seconds, but it obviously wasn't...
shearwater sp. (Calonectris/Puffinus sp.) 1 Sooo...I think this was probably the bird of the morning, and I don't know what it was. I got on a pretty distant shearwater hauling south(ish). What was surprising about this bird was that it was very clean dark and light--very pale below, with white underwings. Obviously, it wasn't a Sooty. Most likely, it was just a Pink-foot gleaming in the sunlight--the definite Pink-foot I had earlier surprised me with its contrast, but it seemed more strong on this bird, and I didn't see the pink bill, either. Huuuh.
Black Storm-Petrel (Oceanodroma melania) 18
Brandt's Cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus) 4
Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) 88
Long-billed Curlew (Numenius americanus) 2 Two flying "north," low over the water--they rounded the end of the pier.
Marbled Godwit (Limosa fedoa) 1 On the beach.
shorebird sp. (Charadriiformes sp.) 8 A distant flock of small shorebirds going south...I think they miiight have been Semi Plovers, but yeah...beyond my ability.
Heermann's Gull (Larus heermanni) 75
Western Gull (Larus occidentalis) 280
Least Tern (Sternula antillarum) 85
Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia) 10
Forster's Tern (Sterna forsteri) 15
Royal Tern (Thalasseus maximus) 2
Elegant Tern (Thalasseus elegans) 500
Rock Pigeon (Columba livia) 55
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) 4
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) 5
House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) 5
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) 10

1 comment:

Bob Kaufman said...

Neil, truly you are my idol when it comes to birding blogs. Great writing as usual! (chuckled on the quote from Horace).