“PELICAN BRIEF”: BROWN PELICANS AT SANDY POINT, ABACO


Brown Pelicans, Sandy Point, Abaco 12

 “PELICAN BRIEF”: BROWN PELICANS AT SANDY POINT, ABACO

The Brief today is to write about Brown Pelicans at Sandy Point. And to shoehorn in the traditional titular pun somehow (job done!). For those unfamiliar with Abaco, SP is the end of the road. Literally. The island has one highway 120 miles long, mostly straight, from north to nearly south where it curves abruptly west for a while, past the airfield, and when it reaches the ocean at Rocky Point there’s a 90º turn. For a couple of miles, you travel north again into Sandy Point… then stop when you see the sea ahead of you. Dead end. Time to park and explore… 

Abaco Road Map

Brown Pelicans, Sandy Point, Abaco 4

The birding at SP can be very rewarding. Depending on the time of year, you may see ospreys, tropicbirds, heron and egrets of various sorts, kestrels, anis and plenty of shorebirds. The last are found on the narrow beaches and at low tide on the sandbars close to the shore. On the more distant sandbars in Spring, you may see a colony of Magnificent Frigatebirds (or Man-0-War birds), the males with their amazing ‘look-at-me’ bright red throat-balloons (‘gular pouches’) inflated to enhance their wooing prospects. This is exactly the time you’ll realise you haven’t brought your binoculars with you…  Brown Pelicans, Sandy Point, Abaco 9 We’d gone to a (very) informal lunch party at the legendary Nancy’s, but there was activity on the nearby dock that caught my eye. A pair of pelicans were fishing from it, then drying in the sun, then having a little fly around. I only had a rather underwhelming camera with me, so I did what I could in a short time before returning to the matter in hand. Brown Pelicans, Sandy Point, Abaco 8Brown Pelicans, Sandy Point, Abaco 6Brown Pelicans, Sandy Point, Abaco 7 Although I watched the birds diving off the dock a few times, I never actually saw them catch anything. Maybe they had already swallowed some hapless little fish before returning to the dock. I was reminded of a poem by a poet called James Montgomery. Here’s his vivid and perhaps overwrought description of pelican feeding habits: Nimbly they seized and secreted their prey, Alive and wriggling in the elastic net, Which Nature hung beneath their grasping beaks; Till, swoln, with captures, the unwieldy burden Clogg’d their slow flight, as heavily to land, These mighty hunters of the deep return’d. There on the cragged cliffs they perch’d at ease, Gorging their hapless victims one by one; Then full and weary, side by side, they slept, Till evening roused them to the chase again. James Montgomery (4 November 1771 – 30 April 1854): Pelican Island, 1828 (canto IV, l. 141)

Watching the water intentlyBrown Pelicans, Sandy Point, Abaco 10

Check out that ‘gular pouch’… Pelicans, like frigatebirds, have them – cormorants too.Brown Pelicans, Sandy Point, Abaco 14

After each sortie a certain amount of shaking down, feather fluffing & general drying-off took placeBrown Pelicans, Sandy Point, Abaco 13

Although these pelicans look generally rather clumsy and ponderous both in flight and on land, they are surprisingly quick and agile in the dive. Occasionally, however, the take-off was a bit ragged… Brown Pelicans, Sandy Point, Abaco 16 Usually the male took the tallest post from which to survey the scene, but occasionally the female beat him to a good vantage point.Brown Pelicans, Sandy Point, Abaco 17 I’d never seen pelicans so close-to before. At Delphi they can be seen flying lazily past over the bay, quite high. I’ve seen one in Hope Town, but some distance away. So it was a huge thrill to be able to watch these two birds from the dock itself. You’ll see that the female was ringed (banded), but the male was not. Very soon we’ll be back on Abaco. I’m hoping the pelicans will be at Sandy Point again. And the ospreys. And the Frigatebirds.  And that I’ll have remembered the binoculars. And that the Kaliks at Nancy’s will be ice-cold…  All photos, RH

It’s a poor photo, but it illustrates the huge wingspan compared to body length…Brown Pelicans, Sandy Point, Abaco 15

FLAMINGOS & PELICANS: BIRDS OF ABACO… YET NOT IN ABACO


PINK FLAMINGOS & WHITE PELICANS

BIRDS OF ABACO… YET NOT IN ABACO

This post is a slight, alright huge, cheat. It’s been a Hurricane Sandy-dominated week. I have been posting / updating daily about the storm: the before, during and after for Abaco. Weather predictions. Trackers. Pics. Views from space. Several thousand hits later, and I realise that, as for Irene last year, the world is thirsty for information about cyclones and the communities affected by extreme weather. The power and communication problems faced by Abaco (as elsewhere) at these times increases the global concern. There have been emails asking for information about damage at Green Turtle Cay; if I know how uncle Fred on Elbow Cay is faring; and what of Saucy Sue in Marsh Harbour (the boat, not the person)…

Now that the storm has passed, power and comms are mostly restored, and the clean-up underway on Abaco it’s thankfully back to wildlife. Some interesting birds are called for to spread some cheer.These two species will be familiar but not in the setting shown…

PINK FLAMINGOS (Phoenicopterus)

Cheat 1: These birds were photographed… in captivity. Not quite the same as the real wild thing, I agree. To see wild ones on Inagua during the past breeding season, check out my earlier post with wonderful photographs by Melissa Maura CLICK HERE

Cheat 2: They are not in fact the Bahamas / Caribbean species, now I come to think of it. But they are undeniably pretty and cheering.

WHITE PELICANS (Pelicanus)

The birds below are American White Pelicans, not the Brown Caribbean Pelican familiar in the Bahamas. This isn’t a real cheat, however, since these birds are listed (in some sources at least) as ‘accidentals’ in the Bahamas. These’s always the chance that you might see a stray one. And if anyone has – especially if they have a photo – I’d be most interested to know.