Last month, on one of our last few days in Monterey, Chris, Anne and I drove north on scenic Highway 1, California’s coastal highway. We drove up to Half-moon Bay and had lunch at the Moss Beach Distillery. On the way back we set a more leisurely pace and stopped at most of the state beaches along the coast, checking them out. Chris is always scouting for new seashore landscapes to photograph and it was all new and exciting to us. It made for a pleasant afternoon. The pictured merganser was at one of these beaches.
At this particular beach, the parking lot was situated on a sandy bluff overlooking the beach, with cliffs around it and there didn’t appear to be any easy way down to the surf, which would explain why the beach was literally covered with seagulls. This particular beach was really no more than a sandbar that at the moment had landlocked a tidal estuary behind it. This estuary was only narrowly separated from the sea by the sandbar and it looked like large waves, say from a storm could easily wash over the bar and replenish the basin’s waters. Alternatively, in a less arid season than what California is currently enduring, it looked like the estuary would act as a way for rainfall to drain into the sea. Anyway, it didn’t appear that either of these two mechanisms had occurred recently, because the water in the basin was quite stagnant.
Still, there was a school of fish trapped in this two-acre landlocked basin and the merganser was busy hunting them. The bird would flap its wings, partially lifting its body up off the water, then it would stamp its webbed feet, thereby creating a lot of noise and splashing. It was trying to herd the fish. It looked like it was trying to herd them into a corner, I guess, to make them it easier to catch one. It didn’t have any luck in the few minutes that I spent watching, but it had all day to practice, because the fish weren’t going anywhere anytime soon.