Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ugly Duckling NOT


Pelicans were in abundance as we canoed the fingers of water between various mangrove marshes during our recent trip to Florida.  For some reason they do not seem as exotic or interesting when found in my back yard!  It is hard to believe that pelicans were almost wiped out by pesticides a few decades ago.  But you cannot sigh with relief as Florida is slowly becoming one mass of suburban gated communities outlined by golf courses and fringed by shopping malls which put increasing pressure on the birds' habitat.  This brown pelican was sitting peacefully on the top of the mangrove tree as we coasted past just below him. The weather rarely got above 60 C and there was usually a cold wind on the water so it felt like 55 C or colder. We never removed our jackets or our jeans in our pursuit of the tropical feeling.  Last month's cold weather which reached south Florida had resulted in a major fish kill which had cut the food supply for these birds and other water birds.  Wind seems to have impacted water levels as well; we were told that the rare storks may not even nest this year due to this crazy weather! 



We, like so many others, fled from the snow. (I do not think I met anyone actually from Florida during this trip, except for some friends we visited. )  Many other pelicans including the white pelicans below could be seen from the walkways in the preserves and sanctuaries.   They nest in pairs of over one hundred on the islands.  They catch their prey in the shallow waters rather than the dramatic diving seen with the brown pelican.



 This canoe trail below was a few miles long in the Corkscrew Swamp area of southern Florida and we saw only one group of kayakers, one other canoe, and a small electric bass boat with two die-hard fishermen.  Fighting the cooler wind gusts on the non-lee sides of the islands was challenging.  If the wind was behind us, I could sometimes lift my paddle and it would act as a tiny sail scooting us fairly rapidly across the water and even faster if the tidal current was in our favor.  When the canoe trail took us between a path in the mangroves, the wind was blocked and the sun would take charge and warm our bones.  Even though the tops of the highest mangroves had brown die-back from the harsh winter, we could pretend it was spring.  





The above photo is not very good as we were moving past fairly fast in the canoe to avoid startling the birds, but it does show the brown die-back in the tops of the mangroves from this cold winter that reached even South Florida.

7 comments:

Dave King said...

I found that totally absorbing, though it reminded me a tad too much of how I miss my kayaking days. Sad, if not surprising, to hear again of the inevitable encroaching of so-called civilization on the natural habitat.

tattytiara said...

Awesome! Pelicans are my absolute favorite birds. I spent two years helping care for an injured, unreleasable one (who now lives in the Calgary zoo) and just fell absolutely in love with the inquisitive, fun spirit of the animal.

Robert V. Sobczak said...

Sounds like fun Florida travels. You picked the right season!

Pauline said...

A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican.
He can take in his beak
Food enough for a week;
But I'm damned if I see how the helican.
(Dixon Lanire Merrith)

Couldn't resist a favorite childhood poem. Great photos. It's the first bit of sunshine I've seen in a week! Are you home now or still in FL? A daughter who lives there complained often of the unusual cold even in south FL.

Tabor said...

Dave, Yes it is sad about what we do.
tattytiara, how cool...any photos of that time?
Bob, it was busier with tourists than I thought it would be...between Valentines Day and Shove Tuesday we ate in more than out!
Pauline...funny! I think I remember it, and yes we are back and yes it was very cool in terms of temperatures down there.

Snowbrush said...

I enjoyed your photos, and your comment about fairyland reminds me of my wife who also sees magic in small things and places.

We have pelicans here in Oregon too. I moved here from south Mississippi without having any idea I would find Southern Magnolias and pelicans--the latter native, the former not.

Brian Miller said...

used to live just outside of tampa...loved it. beautiful pelican. love to kayak as well though i never did when we live there..only in the rivers and mountains.