The Californian animal that made the greatest impression on me was the pelican. I first encountered them idling and preening on the rocks at La Jolla, occasionally rousing themselves to a brief and graceful flight across the bay. But what really gripped me was their homeward flight to roost at dusk on Pacific Beach. They’d fly up like a military formation, perhaps 30-40 birds in constantly shifting patterns, often in the classic asymmetrical V with five or so birds in the short arm and the rest more or less straight behind. But they would playfully slip and slide out of this pattern, sometimes a kink ravelling down the whole formation, sometimes the V evening out to a swept-wing formation, sometime all line astern. Sometimes a bird or two would break off and fly out to sea. The whole spectacle conveyed such a sense of power and purpose and an enviable sense of community and purposeful life. At La Jolla they had been wet-suit divers swimming with the seals in mammalian fellowship but it was the pelicans that spoke to the animal spirits in me.
I'm a writer whose interests include the biological revolution happening now, the relationship between art and science, jazz, and the state of the planet