Brown Pelicans – part two

In my last post, I mentioned having a bit more to say about Brown Pelicans. I love watching them and could probably spend many days sitting at a few choice spots along the coast where these birds stream by in autumn.

As you can see in the above photo, the Pelicans often fly in long lines, gliding in the trough of a long wave, just slightly ahead of the curl (click on all photos for larger views). At some point, one by one, they will rise and soar up over the curl, dropping down behind the swell to begin a new glide ahead of the next large wave. It seems precise — like a game, or perhaps more like a dance.

On this year’s trip, my friend and I discovered something of great interest while shooting photos and video footage at sunset along the coast. On more than one occasion, we found large numbers of birds circling the craggy rock formations well off from shore.

At first, we thought these might be gulls, but the birds seemed a little too large. We got out the field scope to take a better look and found our suspicions confirmed — we were seeing Pelicans — hundreds of them gliding in circles, silhouetted by the setting sun.

Their flight seemed almost effortless and playful — as though the ocean breezes gave them enough lift to rise and float above the rocky islands. There’s something very magical and joyful about these sunset pelican flights. We both felt that these were among the best moments of our journey.

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8 Responses to “Brown Pelicans – part two”

  1. Cathy Wilson Says:

    Love the movies, Bev – I’ve never seen anything like that. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pelican ‘wading’. Nor so many. That must have been a delight – and, yes – I understand your sense of joy and awe at watching them drift above the tableau of light and rock and glinting waves.

    BTW – in the first movie – there’s a dark gull in the foreground that flaps, floats and drifts backwards. Is that a ‘gull’ or is it something else? I don’t recognize it.

  2. Duncan Says:

    Our pelicans love to soar on the updraughts too Bev, quite a majestic sight. Had a good laugh one day to see one reach forward with one foot and scratch itself behind its ear.

  3. bev Says:

    Cathy – Glad you could view the movies and found them of interest. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Pelicans wading either – usually either flying or swimming — both of which they do very well. It was great fun to watch these large gatherings. The sunset flights were just awesome — magical is really the only way I can describe them. I haven’t checked the little movie, but if it’s a dark gull, I’m guessing that it’s a Heermann’s Gull. They are very dark and often fly close to Pelicans – Sibley’s says that they chase other seabirds hoping to get their food, and are sometimes mistaken for a jaeger. I believe I have some footage of one of two of them coming down atop a Pelican that had dived for fish a split second before. They sort of landed on its head.

    Duncan – I really love to watch Pelicans soaring and gliding. The speed that they can reach once they get into the right kind of breeze is really quite incredible. How neat to see one scratching itself with a foot!

  4. robin andrea Says:

    You describe the delight in watching these beautiful pelicans perfectly. Their behaviors are endlessly interesting. I have never seen them circling like that, something to look forward to.

  5. bev Says:

    robin – Yes, be sure to watch for Pelicans flying over the ocean above large stacks close to sunset. I kind of think this is an evening thing as I watched for it at other times of day and didn’t see anything similar. It sure was terrific.

  6. am Says:

    Love your pelican photos. Just returned from visiting Ocean Springs, Mississippi, where I saw pelicans, too. Saw a wonderful book about pelicans by an artist, Walter Inglis Anderson, who painted extraordinary images of the wildlife of the Gulf Coast.

    Love the oceanscape with the dark clouds and light.

  7. barbara Says:

    The sky’s color is such a wonderful shade to compliment the birds and mountains. I would love to see a pelican.

  8. bev Says:

    am – Thanks for mentioning the Pelican book. I followed the link but got an error. It think this one might work:
    Looks interesting. I may order a copy!

    barbara – You would love the pelicans. They really are quite beautiful and very much creatures of the air and ocean.

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