Thursday, December 3, 2015

Elegy for an American White Pelican

By Becky Swearingen

I’ve been watching an American White Pelican at Lake Springfield.  I first noticed it on November 24th. It made an impression on me because it was resting on the shoreline by the boathouse and boat dock.  I’ve watched and photographed pelicans for several years, but never saw one so up close and personal.  It allowed people to approach it closely without appearing to be terribly upset by their presence.

It eventually did move to another area of the lake and that is when I noticed it didn’t appear to have the lift to successfully take flight and it appeared to have a limp.  That’s when I realized it was apparently injured in some way. It appeared to “walk” across the water more than fly.

Attempted liftoff
I next visited the lake on Wednesday and saw that the pelican had not moved from its new location.  Thanksgiving came and I didn’t visit him again for several days.

The pelican’s plight made me think about nature and some of the sights I’ve seen.  Last May, as I was driving the back roads in Dade County visiting one of my favorite prairies, Providence Prairie, I came across this sight.

At the time, I was unsure what I was seeing and it was some time later while I was doing research about something else that I realized it was a skewered victim of a Loggerhead Shrike.  These birds skewer their victims and even sometimes during courtship will decorate their kills.  I posted this picture on a Nature Addicts website and was chided by someone for posting a picture of a dead animal on a site designed for nature lovers.  My response was that this was part of nature and that nature in all its form is fascinating, but it’s not always pretty, but we need to celebrate it in all its forms.

In July (on my birthday as a matter of fact) I was again driving the dirt roads of Dade County and ran across this.

My first thought was that it was another Loggerhead Shrike kill that had been skewered.  But then I noticed it was moving and struggling to get off the fence.  I decided it was time to investigate the situation, so I covered myself in bug spray and waded through the tall grass and over the ditch to the fence.  I discovered that the bird had gotten his foot entangled in the barbed wire, so I carefully raised it up and gently worked to free it from the fence.  I managed, after a minute or so, to extract it and it flew furiously across the field and I swear it was glaring it at me as it went, such a different result from the field mouse.

Back to my pelican, though.  The rain came, starting Thanksgiving evening and the water rose, causing the pelican to lose its temporary safe haven.  I know it is across the lake on one of the few marshy areas above water, but it did not move for the hour or so I was at the lake today and I feel, sadly, that it will not survive whatever injury it sustained.  It is a beautiful bird and I cherish the time I had getting close to it. Nature, though always fascinating, is not always pretty or kind.

Photos and story by Becky Swearingen, 2015 MN class.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful phlog and so true about nature, beautiful nature photos as well and even tho it's natural it's still sad to see them go.