the week

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About fourteen miles off the coast of California you can find Anacapa Island. It’s a beautiful sort of place, the kind of place you can spend time pondering something or nothing in particular. It’s a grand place to go with good friends for special events, such as a birthday, or just because.

It’s a National Park, it’s in the middle of the ocean, and as such it’s a rather natural place to be. Every corner there is a view, every direction you walk you will find the beauty of God’s creation in astounding fashion.

There are also birds.

No, get that image out of your head. It’s not like that. I’m sure you’ve been to a coast or a shore and seen birds flying over nice waves, calling out every so often and dropping into the water for a nice tasty fish. Yeah. That’s not what I’m talking about. Anacapa Island is different. There are birds.

During certain months of the year Anacapa Island is the nesting ground for the Western Gull. There are very, very few places on the Pacific coast where these birds nest. And there are a lot of Western Gulls on the Pacific Coast. A lot.

So, if you happen to go and camp on Anacapa Island during these months you will see them. You will be surrounded by them, on ground, on sea, and in the air. They are everywhere, the mothers and their darling fluffy chicks.

Western Gulls, however, are not sweet, compassionate, friendly birds. Theirs is a very serious species. And it is their island.

“Their Island?”
“Anacapa Island. It’s theirs.”

There are trails on the island, and a ranger who keeps the trails. The gulls also know the trails, and they do not nest on them. If you step off the trail, however, or even think about it the squadrons are scrambled. Sea gull mothers open their wings and rise up into the sky. Rising up pretty high. Then they begin to fly. And they do not fly out to sea. They are not fleeing.

They swoop around and attack your head. And do it again. And again. And they make you duck, as they aren’t trying to just irritate you. They are attacking. And gulls are very good about swooping down and pulling off an ear, or plucking out an eye, or taking with them grand tufts of once well combed hair. At least that is what I suspect. I never saw that myself, but I heard their mumblings, and did look in their eyes. They would have no qualms about relieving a person of body parts, as long as that person stayed away from their nests.

With a small island, and this small island almost entirely covered in nests, such attacks become somewhat common. The whole time you have to watch out not to bother a gull, and have to watch out for gulls already bothered. They swoop, and they attack, and the sky becomes a cloud of mad, frenzied gulls.

Oddly enough, I’ve felt like I’ve been on Anacapa Island all week. Almost focused, except for these dang swooping birds I can’t get away from that keep pecking at my head.

It’s a curious sort of feeling.

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