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Scribbles on life, the universe and everything… Woy Woy, Ettalong, Umina and teh Central Coast that is!
The Sentinel’s Mate!
December 10, 2008Posted by on
My partner and I strolled on the white sands of Ettalong Beach. Droplets plinked on our rain jacket hoods negating conversation. Lights from across Broken Bay shimmered in the subtle gloom of the rainy night. My partner and I were consumed in silent reverie.
Peering across the water a ghostly apparition floated mysteriously. It may have been a buoy marking a mooring, or simply a floating grocery bag. A few minutes observation revealed the apparition was heading on a steady course, moving with some purpose. It came close to shore, revealing the outline of a large bird.
This rather stately pelican roams the sandy inlet, investigating breaches of “bait and catch” security by fisher folk. This large pre-historic looking bird also samples the picnic trappings of naive or distracted swimmers. The pelican is the Sentinel of Ettalong Beach.
Pelicans look like inanimate floating objects as they swim along. You cannot see its web feet churning under the water. As they glide along, they seem wooden, like a floating toy bird. This creates an artificial appearance, like a decoy duck.
The Sentinel lunges forward, proving it is in fact a living organism. The ungainly beak spears into the dark waters. Just as suddenly, its head jerks back, flipping a small fish into its beak to the back of his throat, already looking for its next prey. The Sentinel gazes at us for a moment, a large eye that appears painted on a wooden head, and then continues fishing for dinner.
Pelicans are rarely solitary. Typically they live in small to very large flocks. Pelicans are known to work together, cooperating to “pen” the fish before plunging their beaks into the water to catch their prey.
The Sentinel has not read that book, or so it seems. Recently Ettalong Beach is being patrolled by a very odd couple.
The Sentinel’s mate is a diminutive diver duck, dwarfed by the pelican. They spend considerable time together on patrol, sharing “the catch”. The duck seems to dive for fish and share with the Sentinel. It is a charming symbiosis that I would have though rare between different bird species.
Pelicans have been known to eat ducks and seagulls when food supplies are scarce. Perhaps the diver duck is unaware of the risk it takes on days of poor fishing.
The Sentinel patrols its patch in all conditions, as though it is the ghostly incarnation of an old salt, destined to watch over the sea for eternity. This silent sentinel now has a sentient being to while away the hours of the watch.
Let us hope The Sentinel does not decide to have a friend for dinner!!!