Sometimes we humans get to witness moments in nature that we know we will never see again. I was taking pictures after the recent storms in Oregon, watching the thick sea foam washing over the beach when something caught my eye, an unusual movement through my viewer. I had zoomed in and still couldn’t recognize exactly what I was seeing. You may see it around the center of this shot…


It was a bird, covered in sea foam, waddling towards me until it got covered in foam again with the next wave. It was a pelican.


I wasn’t sure what to do. He was completely covered, his eyes, his wings, his bill. I was still too far from him to be of much help, so I kept taking pictures. He, or she…what do I know?…stopped and stretched. It was definitely a pelican, a tired pelican. No telling how long it had been struggling to escape the strong waves of sea foam. I know. I had been standing with my back to the ocean the day before and got caught in a rush of the nasty looking, thick foam. I couldn’t outrun it. And I’m a whole lot taller than a bird on the ground. It seems to take a long time to make it closer to the shore.


I wasn’t moving, only clicking my camera, but the pelican seemed to know I wasn’t going to hurt him. Or he was too tired to care. He was just trying to get out of the mess. Thoughts were running through my mind about trying to help. Do pelicans bite? What if I just scared him. I had nothing with me to dry him off. So much for my valiant thoughts of a wildlife rescue. He stopped and shook a few times, losing a little bit of the foam.


He wasn’t very graceful but he was moving. He seemed to know what to do. He stretched his wings again.


Then his neck. He was watching me now.


He let his pouch drop a little, alternating spreading his wings, preening to get the foam off.


He turned to me, looking right at me, probably 20 feet away.


Then he spread his wings, airing them out, and headed for the safety of a log thrown to shore by the storm.


A couple, probably from Germany, joined me on the shore and began taking photos with an iPad. They had seen many dead birds after the storm and thought this one would probably die, he looked old to them.

You know what…I don’t think so. I think he knew exactly what to do and was going to go dry off before returning to the other pelicans in the area. I’m not naive, but I saw the look in his eye, a look of strength. No matter what happened later, he had made it to shore, cleaned himself off, and looked a human in the eye. I felt good about him and grateful for getting to capture it for you. I won’t forget my plucky pelican friend…