Tuesday, January 24, 2006

12. Mallard

I saw a Mallard today. More than one actually.

I was walking home from picking up a late lunch from the taqueria. It was a gorgeous day. I called Rob on the walk home, to hear about life in L.A. He was at the beach. They'd seen dolphins and just missed a whale. The beach! Good God how I'd like to be at the beach. And before I even walked in the door it hit me, I could go to the beach.

I'd already filed my story that day for Playlist, and handed in all my fact changes to Wired on the story I was working on there. The beach; the beach is out there waiting.

I ran it by Harper, who has barely been out of the house for the past eight month. She was more than down. I loaded her leg wedge into the car, and she rode to the beach lying down on her back on the Thermarest, stretched out across the folded down seats.

When we arrived and parked the car, I saw a big splash offshore, and at first thought it was a whale. And then I looked again at the mighty Pacific; it had been a long time.

We strolled along the beach on the boardwalk--or whatever you call the concrete path running parallel to and above the beach. Two women stopped us.

-We saw a whale!

-A whale? I thought I saw one too!

-Yes, right there, look!


And we did, and after a few minutes, there it was! A spout! And another! Then it breached, and we could see it's bulk above the waterline. It was the first time I'd seen anything other than a spout. The first time Harper had seen a whale at all.

California.

I wanted to look for a bird or two while we were there. I didn't bother with the gulls. I'm not at the stage yet where I can single out various types of gulls. But I did see several cowbirds along the beach, co-mingling with the Brewer's Blackbirds. I even took a few pictures. I was proud of myself for knowing what they were without a field guide.

On the way home, I decided to drive through the park, so that Harper could see the trees. Doing so, I drove past a pond, where several mallard swam.

You, I thought, I'll save for later. I've got my bird today already.

And of course, when I got home I realized I'd been looking at a female Brewer's.

But I still had my mallard. And the whale. I'm calling that a Baker's Dozen.

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