A Favorite Amongst Oceanside California Pier Visitors
In my travels along the Southern California coastline I have seen hundreds of places and events which are fun, beautiful and scenic but few if any can rival the fun I had last weekend going out on the Oceanside Pier and meeting “Charlie the Pelican”.
I love pelicans – they are beautiful birds and at nearly 35 lbs and with a wing span of up to 8 feet in length they are also very big. The pelicans cruise the Southern California coastline every day either skimming the ocean surface just an inch or two above or they “dive bomb” from heights of up to 35 feet straight into the ocean to catch fish in their bill. Large birds with very graceful skills.
Normally I will walk through Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and the shores of La Jolla Cove to watch and photograph these majestic creatures. I have even gone to the Ocean Beach pier and bought anchovies to feed the pelicans that sit on top of the room at the Ocean Beach Pier Cafe and Bait Shop. The pelicans always enjoy a free lunch of anchovies although they like to keep a good distance away.
Things in Oceanside however are much different. There is Charlie and also a small group of younger pelicans that hang out at the Pier Bait Shop. Ed, the owner of Pier Bait Shop has been in business for less than a year but has made a friend of Charlie and some of the younger pelicans the rely on tourists, fisherman and locals who take the time to buy anchovies for $4.00 a bag to feed the pelicans.
“I just had a marine who got back from Iraq who bought $25.00 worth of anchovies and sat and fed the pelicans for over an hour”, he said. “It was a way for him to ease back into the daily like that many marines encounter when transitioning from a war zone”.
Many other tourists and locals enjoy not only feeding the pelicans for a host of other reasons but also taking photographs.
I have spent many days and trips along the beach trying to get good photos of pelicans but none can compare to the shots I got on a sunny Sunday afternoon on the Oceanside Pier.
There were many smiles and wide open eyes of children looking at birlds almost as big as they were when walking out along the pier and the birds just shuffle around the crowds and get out of the way when people move towards them.
“It would be nice if the city could rope off a small section for the birds to sit so guests would not to close” said Ed. “There are always those people who come out that want to tease or try to injure the birds”
Unfortunately I knew Ed was right since I sat there for only about an hour and saw multiple offenses including one man who came at the birds with a fishing pole and other ignorant people who had to see if the birds would attack a stick if they stuck it close enough or even people coming so close to them with cameras that they could have grabbed the birds. When you can get within 6 feet of a bird the size of these pelicans, getting any closer is not necassary for photos and only sets up trouble.
I have seen the same dumb and ignorant behavior before from people at the La Jolla Childrens Pool kicking or either chasing seals into the water “for a laugh’. The sad part is that the humans act more like animals than the animals do.
I was super happy and excited to have gotten such a close encounter from a bird I have chased and photographed for years, but at the same time I was a bit worried that unless the City of Oceanside was smart enough to see the value these birds bring to the community and provide a small roped off barrier, that something could happen and one or more of these birds could be injured in the future.
I was shooting video and captured the bonehead with the fishing pole going after the birds and on my way home I wrestled with wether I should post that or keep it in my hard drive. I did not want to display an unfortunate event online but I did decide it may be valuable in the future should this topic come up amongst Oceanside city officials. It is still on my hard drive and not posted on youtube.com.
Brown Pelicans are an endangered species and 70% of them do not make it to full maturity. They can live up to 35 years of age and are native to the California coastline.
For anyone who is looking for a one of a kind up close encounter with one of the most beautiful and majestic birds in California, I strongly recommend that you visit Charlie the pelican and Ed at Pier Bait for an afternoon of fun and enjoyment.
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