2019-07-28 San Luis Obisbo Guillemot

Pigeon Guillemot - Cepphus columba
My encounters with nature on the Hartford Pier was highlighted by this Pigeon Guillemot catching fish and seemingly bringing them in close for my inspection. San Luis Bay in San Luis Obispo along the coast of Central California.

I had business to attend that required me to travel to Oregon. When I was planning my route north and decided to drive the central coast road, I used the trip as an opportunity to pay a visit to my cousin Bill in Cambria. I learned that he and his wife were just returning from Mexico, and I’d have a little time to explore the surrounding area. Looking at the map, I was drawn to the bay near San Luis Obispo and the lighthouse point beyond Avila Beach. I’d never visited the area and it seemed like it might provide me with opportunities to meet interesting birds.

Traffic along the coast approaching Pismo Beach (just south) was clogged and it got no better when I left the highway to explore the beach route, but I endured and drove the road as far as possible. It carried me to wooden pier that reached a long way into the bay, and after a break to eat some yogurt, I walked out on the pier to see what things were like there. I’d been scanning the water from my shore-side seat for unusual birds, but my survey revealed only the Western Gulls and Brown Pelicans gathered near where the fishermen were cleaning their catches. Barn Swallows zipped by, but the light did not tempt me to get out my camera gear, so I explored the pier with only my binoculars.

About a third the way out I regretted my decision. I saw a Pigeon Guillemot fly in and land under the pier. *THIS* was unexpected, and the possibility to capture this bird with my camera enticed me to walk back and collect my biggest lens and tripod.

As I walked back to the pier, I saw the bird floating a short distance from the pier, but I was not yet close enough to get a usable image. Before I got within range, I watched the bird rise and fly away towards the horizon beyond my view. I continued my walk with my gear out to the end of the pier, making no further sightings of the shy bird. Resigned to having missed my opportunity, I walked back towards the shore. While visiting with a fisherman and explaining my quest, I saw the bird again as it picked up from the surface and flew away and disappeared in the distance. <sigh>

I continued searching the area where I first sighted the bird, and happily, I found it (or its friend) fishing the waters a hundred feet off the pier. I watched the bird seemingly play with the small fish it captured and I thought this was a perfectly satisfying encounter, but the visit got *much* better. Eventually the bird swam to me with its catch, and played in the waters under the pier only a few dozen feet from my position. As if it was showing off its catch, the bird put on a great performance for me.

I met my first Pigeon Guillemot while on my 2005 Alaska adventure, and it wasn’t on my radar for California waters. Surprises as nice as this do not come to me every day.

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