Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Pursuit Continues

The first stop on our Pursuit of the Perfect Pelican Picture was going to be Pelican Island, but this seemingly logical place to start was unsuccessful. Seawolf Park, our destination, was closed, and I had not researched where the Island's few gravel roads led.

We next tried San Luis Pass on the west end of Galveston Island, and while we saw many shorebirds (which will be discussed in a future entry), we did not see any pelicans.

So it was off to Pier 19.
Here you can find the boarding area for ocean cruises out of Galveston, tourist attractions, and restaurants.
And it was among the charter fishing boats, shrimp boats, and merchant ships that Kate had read we could see pelicans.

We also found this plate that marked the high water mark as a result of Hurricane Ike in September of 2008. (The camera was held over my head on the pier that was about three feet above the water level, so this was meant a level about 12-14 higher than the day's level.)
We were soon treated to the arrival of a number of pelicans.
Some arrived by boat.
Some took up positions on the pier
Measuring up to 54 inches long, weighing 8 to 10 pounds, and having a wingspan between 6-1/2 feet and 7-1/2 feet, brown pelicans are the smallest members of the seven pelican species worldwide. They can be identified by their chestnut-and-white necks; white heads with pale yellow crowns; brownstreaked back, rump, and tail; blackishbrown belly; grayish bill and pouch; and black legs and feet.

We watched the arrival of this one pelican and its behavior on the pier.

This photo shows the pelican pointing its beak upward, turning its neck into a funnel.

The Brown Pelican is prehistoric looking and cumbersome on land; it’s hard to believe that this bird has been around for at least 30 million years (
This past winter was unusually cold in Galveston, and there was some concern surrounding the pelicans' return to the Island. The return of these birds was greeted with enthusiasm.
"Brown pelicans have few natural enemies. Although ground nests are sometimes destroyed by hurricanes, flooding, or other natural disasters, the biggest threat to pelicans comes from people.
"In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, pelicans were hunted for their feathers, which adorned women’s clothing, particularly hats.
"Several efforts in the early part of the 20th century were meant to curb the decline of brown pelicans. In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt designated Florida’s Pelican Island as the first national wildlife refuge, a move that helped reduce the threat of plume hunters. Passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1918 gave protection to pelicans and other birds and helped curb illegal killing.
"During the food shortages following World War I, commercial fishermen claimed pelicans were decimating their industry and slaughtered them by the thousands. The nests were also frequently raided for eggs.
"With the advent and widespread use of pesticides such as DDT in the 1940s, pelican populations plummeted due to lack of breeding success. When pelicans ate fish contaminated with DDT, the eggs that they laid had shells so thin that they broke during incubation (
We had found an excellent location to view the pelicans, and the majesty of these birds was only beginning to become apparent.

1 comment:

John said...

If you are ever at Padre Island National Seashore, drive down the beach, you don't have to go far, there are hundreds of brown pelicans. I love to watch them fish.