Bird brained stories!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

American White Pelicans galore!

I'd been hearing that the pelicans were back for some time now. I even saw four fly over about a month ago on a birding excursion up and down the Upper Mississippi. It was time to check them out up close.

Heading out to Richmond Bay on French Island, I saw a large flock cross over the highway near my turn off. This looked promising. Driving to the bridge where viewing was reported to be good, I could see glimpses of large white birds cruising in the bay. Pulling off into a parking lot, I headed down the banks, where spread out on calm water before me were big white birds--American White Pelicans---all over the bay. Moving mainly in twos, flying off at the sound of a Harley on the bridge or an airplane heading into the nearby airport, they made for quite the sight. Dressed up in high breeding plumage, including the "bump" on their bills to attract the opposite sex, they'd occasionally tip said bill just below the surface of the water, then tip their head back, with said bill looking larger momentarily. Though they never came right up to me, they were fairly cooperative photo subjects, not skittish at all. Unless you are on a Harley or flying a plane, that is.

As I made my way up the bank to walk further toward the culvert and into better light, a woman parked in the same lot asked me if the birds would stay there. As I started to talk with her, I noticed the boy in the back seat and recognized him immediately.

"Justin!" He jumped out and gave me a big hug. A former student of mine, out watching the birds with his old teacher. Well, until he lobbed a rock into the water and was told to get back in the van. Grumbling as he made his way back, I told him, "Justin, you have to listen. Great to see you again!"

The pelicans would glide tantalizingly close, then turn as one. A bald eagle flew overhead, great blue herons would drop down, red winged blackbirds came startlingly close and carried on in calls I'd never heard them make. Another woman carrying an even more impressive camera set-up than mine joined me at the top of the rocks. Comparing notes, I learn she is another birder/photographer. What are the odds? Another similar nutty individual in the same area?

The light could have been better. The birds could have moved in closer. But it was a great way to spend this early spring evening, no jacket, shirt sleeves only.


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