Last geography lesson for now

Taking off yesterday from San Jose, we flew straight south at first. I know, it’s to do with the prevailing winds, but I kept wanting to shout “Hey! North! Seattle is north!”

But then we did the big turn to go the other way, and I had a window seat on the left side so I got a terrific view of Monterey Bay – the same view I’d had all morning from Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz, but from 30 miles away and higher up. I could see Point Pinos, where the Monterey peninsula turns the corner to Asilomar, right next to where I’d been staying. I could also see…the Santa Cruz wharf. That was a funny experience. It was the only human-made feature I could see on that whole crescent around the bay. Quite cool.

It’s been slightly grim weather to come back to – colder than usual and dull. There’s a beautiful lurid sunset now though, so that’s all right.

Pelicans. I love seeing Pelicans. There are no Pelicans around here at all whatsoever.


  1. IslandBrewer says

    I’ve seen transient American White Pelicans in Minnesota back when I was an undergrad. The summer in inland Canada.

  2. Stacy says

    Pelicans are so cool. They seem to fly. so. slowly.

    I worked at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for a while. I ran the carousel, mostly.

  3. says

    I’m sure those Minnesota pelicans are great in their own way, but there’s nothing like watching a line of Brown Pelicans skimming the surf, and you can see them all year up to a few hundred miles north of Monterey Bay. Washington has them too, in the warmer half of the year, but only out on the Pacific Coast, not in the Sound. Brown Pelicans rarely get far from the ocean.

  4. dks says

    yeah, the lurid sunset is cool, but the air quality sucks. and even with a stage II burn ban, many of my asshat neighbors continue to foul the air with their wood stoves.

  5. Suido says

    An interesting feature of airport design: prevailing wind direction is obviously of huge importance, and creating a wind rose is an essential component of runway alignment. Civil engineers are so romantic.

    Well, I thought it was interesting.

  6. StevoR, fallible human being says

    @4. Rodney Nelson : “I wonder if PZ meant penguins, but they don’t live in Minnesota either.”

    Northernmost penguins live in the Galapagos islands if my geography memory serves. So, yeah, nope.

  7. Trebuchet says

    Brown pelicans do seem to be making their way northward. We’ve seen them at Astoria, OR.

  8. latsot says

    I was bitten by a pelican once. It didn’t even have the decency to be radioactive. It’s probably just as well though, the other super heroes would probably laugh at Pelican Man.

  9. says

    North American white pelicans are a size-and-a-half bigger than NA browns — about a ten-foot wingspan. Obviously I’m in The Right Part of the world: I’ve seen both on the same day, sometimes in the same binocs-sweep, every now and then in the same visual field.

    South SF Bay, Bodega Bay, north SF Bay/San Pablo Bay, hmmm, I think once or twice out on Point Reyes, that little lagged-tidal pool in Larkspur that old birders call “Nordstrom Marsh.” Best time for overlap is late summer, when the whites come down and out from Pyramid Lake and thereabouts and the browns come up from the southern/Baja California islands; both where they breed.

    IOW, we get the vacation traffic.

  10. says

    I’ve only ever seen brown pelicans, and I think I’ve only ever seen them on the Monterey Peninsula. I’m pretty sure, because I remember the first time I saw them, and thinking, “Wow, pelicans, never seen them before!”

  11. says

    White Pelicans are cool. But aren’t quite as fun to watch as the Browns. I’ve seen Whites quite a few times out on the shallow calm waters of Tomales Bay, north of San Francisco. They paddle around in groups to feed without diving and usually only fly when moving from one feeding spot to another. The Browns on the other hand, fly skimming just over the surf, alone or in a line, almost always flying northwards on the California coast because of the prevailing winds, and execute a graceful dive when they spot a fish. They are the smallest of the pelicans, but with a 6 to 8 foot wingspan, they’re plenty big for me.

  12. lpetrich says

    Taking off in the “wrong” direction is often for taking off into the wind, so as to get more lift and not need as much runway.

  13. says

    “to get more lift and not need as much runway”

    Yes, and it’s also safer because planes need a certain airspeed to get enough lift to take off (or land). By taking off (or landing) into the wind, the plane’s ground speed is lower than it would be heading with the wind by double the wind speed. A slower ground speed is way safer.

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