Friday, April 25, 2014

In Plain Sight

I was reminded the other day that sometimes the things that make Malibu remarkable can be overlooked among the noise and haste and busyness of life. I had stopped to catch my breath for a few minutes at Zuma Beach. It was almost entirely empty except for a few distant walkers and the beach grooming tractor, traveling like a monstrous ceratopsian dinosaur back and forth above the tide line. I watched as the tractor came closer and closer and realized that I wasn't the only one keeping an eye on it. Photos © 2014 S. Guldimann
All the time I stood watching I had a small sand-colored companion stationed in plain sight just a few feet away from me. Here's a closer view. Can you see it? It took me almost five minutes to realize it was there. It seemed completely unconcerned by the tractor or the human intruder, but it kept a calm, watchful eye on both. It had nothing to fear from me, at least. As soon as I saw it I walked away quietly, in a different frame of mind than the one I had when I arrived. 
Here's a close-up of my companion. It's a Western snowy plover. This small shorebird has perfected the art of hiding in plain sight. It's tiny and fearless, but it's also increasingly threatened by habitat loss and human activities, despite being a California species of special concern that has special protections and is the subject of an active conservation program. There are only an estimated 2600 of these birds left on the West Coast. Seeing one is a gift. For me, it was a reminder that we may be surrounded by unseen wonders even on the most prosaic and ordinary-seeming days.

Suzanne Guldimann
25 April 2014

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