Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/228

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length on the warm sands. Far out over the waves I saw, more than once—

"A flock of sea birds darken into specks;
Then whiten as they wheel with sunlit wings,
Winking and wavering against the sky."

At the water's edge a score or more of long-billed curlews ran about, picking up crabs and shellfish cast up by the tide. A few gulls mingled with the curlews and watched for opportunities to steal the dainties they snatched from the waves. Some distance out from shore three great brown pelicans new back and forth—

"On solemn wings that wave but seldom while."

They were fishing, and at intervals one would dive with a terrific splash into the ocean after its finny prey. Through my field glass I could see the huge bird come to the surface, and with great effort mount into the air, beset on either side by those "pirates of the deep," the skua gulls, whose principal occupation is stealing from pelicans and gulls the prey they capture. Ornithologically speaking, these skuas are not true gulls, though in looks and habits there is a family resemblance. Some one has aptly called them "the hawks of the sea." They are fierce, overbearing robbers, like some of the land birds of prey.

One day on the beach, a short distance above the Coronado Hotel, I watched some Chinese fishermen casting their large net into the ocean, in the same primitive manner, doubtless, as their ancestors had done for centuries. It was not the Chinamen who particularly attracted my attention, but rather a large flock of gulls that suddenly assembled as soon as the fishermen began to haul in the net. The birds evidently knew what was coming and circled about low over our heads. I had joined the fishers and was helping to pull on the rope. At last we dragged the seine high and dry on the beach, and found a goodly number of fish in the mass of seaweed—flounders and perch, as well as a lot of "shiners" and other fish too small to be marketable. The "small fry" were tossed oceanward, but were eagerly seized upon, almost before they reached the water, by the hungry gulls. When the men had finished the work of sorting out the big fish and moved away from the seaweed pile, which still contained dozens of little fish, the twoscore impatient gulls descended with loud cries of joy, and in less time than it takes to tell it every "shiner" had disappeared.

Gulls nest in colonies, generally on the ground along sandy beaches; also on the rocky ledges by the ocean. Large numbers nest on the Santa Catalina Islands and other rocky islands off the coast of California. Their eggs are gathered and sold as food in the