|The rubber-necked bird on the left reveals its bright blue gular patch trimmed by pale yellow feathers - a distinctive feature of the Brandt's cormorant. Click on any photo for closer view.|
|After preening its ocean-soaked feathers, the cormorant on the left approaches its blue-eyed partner on the nest to report for land duty. Look closely at the center of the photo to see the long neck of the nestling begging for food.|
|Exchange of nesting duties. One of the adults has to attend the nest at all times, otherwise, gulls ("beach raptors") will savage the eggs or nestlings.|
|Just before it settles down for nesting duty, the cormorant parent rids itself of guano which also builds up the nest. In a few minutes, the other parent flies off to feed in the ocean.|
|Adult Brandt's cormorant in lower right regurgitating meal to nestling.|
|Cormorant on nest warily watching a treasure-hunting gull.|
|A Brandt's cormorant nestling stretches its stubby, white-speckled wings.|
But never had I taken the coastal Highway 1 for the entire 200 miles from San Luis Obispo to Pescadero, and now I know why. It took me eight hours of steady, slow driving with heart-stopping views and spotty radio reception. There were three locations where road construction required temporary stops and one-way traffic. The Big Sur section of Highway 1 is thrillingly scenic and winding with precipitous oceanside drops. If I had tried to drive Highway 1 those first few times when I was still anxious as I drove to Cal Poly or crying as I left, I surely would have crashed. This section of the coastal highway takes a steady and confident hand and a calm and patient road-heart which took me many semesters to nurture.
|The nesting Brandt's cormorants on Guillemot Island are easily seen from a short side trail approximately halfway along the North Shore Trail.|
|Brandt's cormorants in breeding display in March. Notice the triangular-shaped rock that the two cormorants are standing on in the center of this photo. That is the same triangular rock that one cormorant is standing on in the June photo below.|
These milestones as our children take momentous steps are exciting and scary like the edge of the continent where the rocky seacliffs drop off into the massive, tossing ocean with its bounty of fish. The cormorants will breed and raise young at the beautiful, turbulent edge of Point Lobos every year, but this is it for me. I will never set another child on the path to college, and let them go. There will be other phases in my life and many will intersect with the Navigator. I anticipate joyful adventures for both of us, together and apart. When I feel uncertain about the future and all the changes that are coming, I have a plan. I will visit Point Lobos via Highway 1 or in my imaginary kitchen window to sit, watch and wait for unexpected wonders.
|It's okay to just chill.|