Fog begins to lift above the Golden Gate Bridge
I'm standing on the coastal trail just west of San Francisco's Golden Gate. Fog obscures most of the famed structure, though now and then a blazing patch of red is revealed as a gust of wind pushes aside a corner of the low-lying cloud. If I were asked to choose a mascot to represent this grandiose landscape, the brown pelican would have no rivals. To the inexperienced observer this might seem an odd choice. Weighing up to eight pounds, with a wingspan greater than 7 feet and a curving neck that culminates in an improbably long, hooked bill, brown pelicans look like make-believe creatures from a child's storybook: gangly, disproportionate, and comical. Yet airborne pelicans are the epitome of grace—flapping with slow ease; making fast, steep plunges in pursuit of fish; flying in long, curving formations that follow the breaking lines of waves.
Adult brown pelican in non-breeding plumage
is a professional writer, naturalist, and natural science educator who writes from her home in Minnesota—when she's not too distracted by the view out the window.