Someone asked me what I did on my vacation. Nothing. You do not visit the Monterey Dunes and do anything. You simply become part of a world we have forgotten. It's a world of sea salt, kelp, birds daily migrations, hunting dolphins, roaming otters. It's a past so primal and so in all of us that you just want to curl up on the sand and meld with it and the ocean.
I took pictures. That's about all I did.
This is a curlew in flight. They are strange looking birds with elongated beaks perfect for jack-hammering into wet sand, searching and seeking out crustaceans. They do not like you to look at them. When you do, they fly away.
It's tempting to believe this is a romantic or friendly moment of bonding. Two birds recognizing their one soul, stopping for a moment of heartfelt connection. It's actually a fight. I like pretending, though.
When we saw them coming, of course we got Hitchockian and thought The Birds had come to roost.
Well, they had. Literally, they were coming down before sunset to roost. The pelicans flew off elsewhere but all the gulls met with great gusto at this sandy outcropping. Later, before the sun's vermilion rays spread out, half of the gulls fled to the sea. I am hoping there was a hidden gem of an isle or island for them to settle down for the night.
Another view of the mass organized chaos. That's what group bird flight is, you know, organized chaos.
Three pelicans in flight during a foggy day. Pelicans are fun. They look gangly and awkward, then they surprise you by tucking in tight, wings against feathered body, and divebombing powerful and perfect into the ocean currents. Some come up heavy with fish, most come up flustered and annoyed. It was easy to find the dolphins, all I had to do was find the terns and gulls and pelicans hunting with them.
While I couldn't see what went on underneath the sea, I could tell the dolphins were emitting bubbles from their blowholes in an ever-tightening circle around their victims. The fish become confused and cannot easily escape from their bubble prison. I watched the dolphins circle and then swim and leap violently into the circle for a catch. It was both fascinating and disturbing.
These are plovers. Ridiculously cute, they move on legs that shimmer when in motion. A more accurate capture would have been a still body with a blur for legs. They don't like getting wet, but they thrive on the little crustaceans beneath the sand. When the tide pulls out, they race fast as their legs can carry them, stick their beaks in the sand, butts pointed high, and then like magic, scurry back to dry land. Delightful creatures.
A lone pelican flies out for a day of fishing.
Hello, we are sea otters and we see you seeing us.
A line of gulls deciding whether they should try and hunt for crustaceans or not. These are in fact the laziest birds on earth. Most of the day, they hang out on the sand in a clique, grooming themselves, casting furtive glances to the ocean. For a brief interim, they stroll down to the wet sand and hunt. Mostly, they wait for the curlews and plovers to catch something and then try to steal it. They are endearing and strange birds.
Foam is foamy.
These two pelicans are heading in for the afternoon. It's not a perfect shot, but I really love the light. They are about to fly directly in front of the sun.
This was a beautiful day for sailing. If that is your thing. It is not my thing. My thing is solid land and a happy stomach.
This looked a lot like a lavender plant. The dunes are quite fragile but so full of life.
Pelicans heading home for the evening.
I love the dunes. They are not raucous beaches with sunbathing tourists. They are cold and violent and often shrouded in fog. They are for bundled walks down damp sand. When you are in the mood, they are for cold-tendrils of ocean grasping at ankles, sometimes knees. They are for the birds, the seals, the crabs. They are for us, but only in small doses, only when we can handle their chilly hands and harshly blowing winds. They invite us into their world of suffering and death, beauty and compassion, so horrifying yet so intrinsically a part of our souls, our code. It is to the past, the first days of existence, when nothing was but a freezing ocean and a setting sun.