The day, Sunday, began as do many of my days - sitting in my swinging chair on my seventh-floor balcony with a cup of cappuccino watching the pelicans dive for their breakfast. It’s been almost three years since I first wondered how long I could sit watching this before getting bored. It hasn’t happened yet.

This morning, something different. I saw a pelican struggling in the water. The tide was receding. Sitting on the water, the pelican looked fine. At the water’s edge it was clear he (she?) was injured. I scanned the beach searching for the red of a bombero’s outfit for help. None in sight. On the way to the beach to see what I might do (no doubt I’ve read too much of All Creatures Great and Small), I found Don Leo, our security guard at the desk. “Help, help, ayuda me (close enough),” I yelled. Given my oh-so-poor Spanish, I began a mime, hopping about and dragging a broken wing (ok, arm). Don Leo understood and phoned the “turtle patrol” people. Seemed to me they might know what to do.

At the beach, the pelican struggled. Finally, a bombero! Together we wrestled the pelican to shore. Well, he grabbed the frightened bird’s flapping beak and I offered support as we tried to quiet him down. Don Leo brought a large box, and someone provided a towel so we could wrap the bird and try to protect it’s visibly broken wing. Needless to say, the pelican, now named Pablo (another story) didn’t get that we were trying to help. He tried to free himself, to snap at us. The bombero finally tied a string loosely around his/her beak and the bird began to quiet.

Up five flights of stairs (elevator broken at the moment), the bombero carried Pablo to deposit him at the street level entrance and return to his work, while I awaited police arrival.

I expected the car to arrive at any moment. Nope. An hour later, Don Leo called again. “Yes, (they said), someone will be there. Busy now.” Ok, now I was really getting upset. There must be something more I could do besides sitting and waiting! What do I know about pelicans? How long can they be out of water? Without food? Isn’t he going to be too hot wrapped in a towel? Maybe I should sing to him ( yes, that IS a joke). Time passed. What to do? Perhaps I should get a cab and take Pablo to town to a vet. Good plan, why wait? Seven calls later, leaving messages with various vet’s offices and no responses, it was clear I couldn’t just ride around town with a large bird looking for help.

Up to my condo. Who to call, what to do? A frantic (ok, maybe that’s too dramatic) call to a friend in the states who knows lots about wildlife. Alana assured me I had done the right thing. That all I could do was keep the bird in a dark quiet place with as little activity as possible until help arrived. Yes, I might cool the towel with water, though if Pablo was in shock, I might not need to worry about keeping him cool.

Between internet searches for a fast course in pelicanology and trips back to the front entrance to sit with Pablo and wet him down, it was more than five hours before he was taken away. I wasn't there at the moment "they" took him.

I spent much of that time sitting by the box with this magnificent bird. On his side, bound in the towel, one large eye stared up at me. He wasn’t struggling. He seemed to be breathing regularly.

That’s surely the closest encounter I’ll get to have with a pelican. I hope I was of some help. I don’t know where Pablo was taken or if he could be saved. Maybe to someone he’s just case #584. It’s definitely a time I wished I could better communicate in Spanish. Not that Pablo would have cared, but I might at least now know what became of him.