Page:Condor19(2).djvu/18

This page needs to be proofread.


44 THE CONDOR Vol. XlX there was something ominous and threatening about that steady breeze. A long time before people became uneasy the birds seemed convinced that a storm was coming. The gulls and terns flew high and circled screaming along the beach; the great cranes flew from one side of the bay to the other; while the herons, curlews and killdeers kept flying short distances and lighting only to fly again first in one direction and then in another. The storm struck the coast from a northwesterly direction and blew with such a uniform force that the water was driven away from Rockport. Many fish were left floundering on the sandy bottom, and some courageous people went out and gathered what they wanted of the choicest speckled trout, red fish, sheep-head, red snappers, etc. But the pelicans showed no desire to fish. They flew about in wild confusion first to the shores, then across the foaming waves into the very teeth of the storm. When there were literally miles of bare beach where there had always been water, the birds became even more panic stricken than they were before. Sometimes they would huddle together on the beach, but only for a minute. Then with piercing shrieks they would scatter, some waddling or half-flying up and down the beach, others trying to fly against the wind, while some even braved the foaming waves. As the storm increased, the pelicans were simply blown about like the ma,- terials from a refreshment stand when boxes of rolled oats and packages of Uneeda biscuits chased one another towards the water. When thoroughly ex- hausted a pelican would sometimes spread itself out and lie flat on the sand with its head towards the wind. While those on the shore were buffeted about at a terrible rate, those in the water fared even worse. The waves rolled so fast and with such irresistible force that the great birds, which are ordinarily so sure of themselves in the water, xvere almost helpless. When by an extreme effort one of them would succeed in raising its body above the waves it was likely to be turned over and over by the furious gale and shot into the crest of a foaming wave. When the wind changed so that the water was driven back towards the shore with a rush, all of the pelicans on the shore began screaming, and it was these extreme penetrating cries from the pelicans and the gulls that were being driven ahead of the gale, that drew the attention of the people to the coming wall of water. All of the pelicans began to run and flutter towards the higher ground, but the fearful rolling, foaming waves caught and swallowed them in less time than it takes to tell it. Not one was left on the shore. Some of them could be seen for a time riding the terrible billows. Others were simply float- ing; no doubt many of them were dead. The screaming of the gulls and the roar of the wind and waves was in- tense. Just how the gulls were able to drift ahead of the storm so long and keep from being dashed into the waves is hard to determine, but being lighter and able to take wing more easily than the pelicans they seemed to glance across the waves and meet the air again without entirely losing control. Thus they escaped being rolled into the waves, which were dashed together with great force and which caused such terrible destruction to the pelicans. After the first dash, when the water rolled high upon the beach, the gulls began to roll, partly flying, walking and being blow along, towards the higher ground. As they reached comparatively high spots they veered about with their heads towards the water and moved inland by a peculiar backing movement. Draw- ing the xvings together and raising the hind part of the body a gull would hold