Day’s end in Malibu

My wife and I had finished our walk along Zuma Beach. Except for the birds patrolling the shore, the beach had been deserted. It was a crisp, clear, brilliant day. The sun was now closing in on the horizon but still glowed brightly emanating counterfeit warmth. The azure sky was yellowing and coppery streaks amid lingering glints of sunlight coated the water. To the northwest, the silhouette of Santa Cruz Island etched the horizon.

We drove out of the parking lot toward Westward Beach Road and home. As we passed over the metal teeth in the roadway exit we spotted her. She was standing in the short grass less than twenty feet away—pure white and immobile as marble. I do not say “she” to be politically correct and avoid gender bias. I do not know if she was female or male. But with such grace and delicacy, I feel she must have been female.

We see Snowy Egrets elsewhere in Malibu—at the Lagoon and Legacy Park—but this was the first time at Zuma Beach. This elegant creature was poised anomalously a stone’s throw from the public toilets. We stopped and stared, blocking the exit. But no car came up behind us.

After a few moments, she began stepping across the grass with measured motion, slowly lifting and lowering her black spindly legs tipped with yellow webbed feet. Her dark-billed narrow head perched atop the reverse S-shaped neck, bobbed forward with each step. Several times she poked her beak into the grass, perhaps seeking a worm or insect. Then she stopped. The slim neck extended itself to an impossibly full length. She looked up and ahead as if peering over a tall fence. We lowered our window. Her head with its ebony eyes darted from side to side. Was she looking at us? Still no car behind us. We sat unmoving and silent.

A gust of wind blew in from the ocean. The head lowered and the neck resumed a curved shape. The windswept plumage cresting her back puffed out, masking the lines of her oval body. The layers of feather covering her head flew up like a cocked hat. This ruffled dishevelment contrasted with her former decorous appearance. The wind subsided and she regained her svelte contours and dignity.

We might still be there but for her decision to move on. She unfolded and extended her wings and pumped them, slowly at first then more vigorously. She slowly lifted herself aloft and tucked her legs beneath her downy underbelly. Flying windward toward the ocean, her broad expanse of wings beat majestically with seeming little effort. She then turned toward Point Dume. We watched until she was out of sight. Perhaps a nest at the Malibu Lagoon was her destination.


We sat reflecting on our good fortune to live where Snowy Egrets and other wild creatures make their home. On our beach walk we had been cheered by the sight of dolphins gamboling beyond the breaking surf. The seasonal migrations of pods of whales continue to thrill us. We enjoy the canyon hiking trails and the spring wildflowers. We feel privileged to live amidst the natural beauty of Malibu.

The sun, now glowing orange, reached the horizon as we drove off. The clouds haloing the sun were turning crimson. It was a perfect end of a Malibu day.

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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