The Golden Gate Bridge is arguably the most iconic and recognizable bridge on earth. (After all: the bridge and fog emojis literally feature the GGB in the foreground.) It also looks good from every angle… from beneath its symmetrical belly, viewed from atop the San Francisco Bay, and thousands of feet up in the sky.
Having driven on it — walked on the beach that sits beneath it; flew a drone above it; rode a bike over it — the Golden Gate Bridge elicits a feeling of absolute awe every time I discover it in my sight. More often than not, this same sensation washes over my body even seeing it splayed across Twitter or Instagram.
Such a feeling enveloped my body like a maverick wave seeing a digital still of a flock of pelicans cutting through the misty haze cloaking the Golden Gate Bridge earlier this month.
Photographed by Bay Area-based shutterbug Stu Berman this past summer, the shots from a film he recently captured of seven pelicans flying through Karl The Fog. The stills Berman shared with Underscore_SF also serve as a pristine reminder of the SF Bay Area’s important place in the Pacific Flyway — a major north-south flyway that’s used by more than a billion migratory birds in the Americas, extending from Alaska to Patagonia.
The birds pictured look to be California brown pelicans, which are common around the central and northern Bay, nowadays. One of the Bay’s largest birds, they are gray-brown in color and have wingspans that average seven feet. Berman’s media capturing of the birds also sheds light on how much the species they belong to has recovered in numbers over the past six decades.
In the 1800s, historical logs show these massive birds — capable of safely diving from as high up as 65 feet above sea level — were plentiful, often seen perched and generally vibing on Alcatraz Island. But by the 1960s, a perfect storm of poaching, loss of natural habitat, and the widespread use of the insecticide DDT (which created a wide array of infertility issues with birds across the country), the species stood largely absent from the Bay Area.
That’s, thankfully, since changed. Brown pelicans were removed from the U.S. Endangered Species List in 2009 and now number some 650,000 individuals across the globe, with over 70,000 nesting pairs recorded in California.
Next time you catch the Golden Gate Bridge in your line of sight, pause for a bit and see if you can spot one of our region’s most breathtaking bird species — which will be backdropped by this absolute marvel of human engineering.