DEAR JOAN: From my morning coffee perch across from Alameda Beach, I have watched the morning activities of the brown pelicans for years. They fly from west to east every morning in large numbers, 30 to 125 per flock, stopping to feed when the tide is right.
Up until last year, each group flew in a single line, forming a sine wave in perfect formation. Each exactly follows the bird ahead. They flap their wings to rise 30 to 40 feet, then at the top, they glide down to skim the surface so closely that their wing tips dimple the surface of the water as they again flap their wings to rise.
But for the past two years, they have nearly completely lost this precision. They straggle in irregular groups, some large, some small. Sometimes a semblance of the old formation happens. What do you think happened? Did they lose their leader? Did homeschooling fail? Did they decide to become free to fly without regimentation?
It’s an existential crisis.
— Roger Ecker, Alameda
DEAR ROGER: Maybe they’re carrying too much emotional baggage in their pouches.
I’ve spoken with some bird experts and while they can’t provide an exact reason for the change, they say it’s not unusual for pelicans to do their own thing and not fly in formation.
It could have to do with the supply of food. It might not be as plentiful, so the fish are more widely dispersed. It might have to do with the number of other birds around at a specific time of the year. Regardless, they say there is nothing to be concerned about.
JD Bergeron with International Bird Rescue near Fairfield says they haven’t seen any illnesses or concerns with brown pelicans, other than the usual injuries and entanglements in abandoned fishing lines and hooks.
Perhaps the pelicans are as discombobulated as we are in these post-pandemic, unsettling times.
DEAR JOAN: There’s a dreadful odor coming, apparently, from a dead animal under my daughter’s house. Her husband says there’s no way to reach it. He hasn’t been able to see exactly where it’s located nor what it may be, but the smell permeates the floor and the children’s bedrooms are affected.
Do you have any suggestions?
— R. Nakano, San Jose
DEAR R.: The best bet is to hire a pest control company that will find the source of the smell, remove the dead animal and clean the area to help eliminate the odor and any biological concerns.
Next, clean the house using vinegar or a product that has vinegar in it. They might also set out bowls of vinegar, which is good for absorbing and removing unpleasant odors. Make sure the bowls are safely out of reach of children and pets.
If they do nothing, the stench will disappear in a few weeks, but trust me, it will be agonizing until then.
Krane Pond update
Fantastic news. With your help, Save Mount Diablo has met its $500,000 goal for purchasing and preserving Krane Pond, an important water source for wildlife on Mount Diablo and surrounding areas.
I’ll have more details on what happens next in next week’s column, but on behalf of Save Mount Diablo, myself and wildlife, thank you.
Animal Life runs on Mondays. Reach Joan Morris at AskJoanMorris@gmail.com.