Monday, February 16, 2015

I Know I Saw A Pelican!

What a month to have been laid off from my job in! I couldn't be more grateful to be the casualty of a department restructure! February in Florida is when it feels most like California. The humidity disappears, the skies are cloudless and it is 73 degrees everyday!

Just after my son in NYC texted a photo of him bundled up to his nose saying, "it feels like 4 degrees out," and my daughter in Virginia texted back that it was 26 there, I did a gleefully evil thing.

"I hate to tell you all this," I typed away," but dad and I are off to kayak at John MacArthur National Park on this beautiful Sunday afternoon."

"You know you love telling your Northern kids that," my daughter wrote from VA.

Yes, I do enjoy flaunting our fair weather while they shiver.

Surprisingly, there was very little wind as we launched the double kayak into the cool lagoon. Normally we paddle out to a distant island in the greater intracoastal, but having less time we decided to go north into the upper enclosed part of the inlet. As we skirted the mangroves once and a while we put down the paddle and listened to the quiet; the waves barely heard from the beach side of the narrow peninsula, soaking up the weaker, but warm winter sun. Then we'd push forward . The birds were abundant; herons, blue and white, snowy egrets and others we weren't sure of.

Finally, we reached the north side of the pond. A great blue heron stood stately near the water. Above him to the right a huge pelican puffed up his wattle-like pouch below his bill, and fanned his feathers, reaching his massive beak to the sky.

 To his right, after we squinted and paddled closer, there sat another pelican, (am I seeing it right?) yes, on a nest!! Thus explaining the defensive dance of the first pelican. I confirmed with hubby that indeed it was a nest he was sitting on, the white stain of droppings extending below the perch, like snow, showing she had resided there a while, warming her eggs. There is nothing like seeing wildlife in its natural habitat! What an awesome sighting!

After our rowing, we hopped the shuttle across the inlet to the beach side. I excitedly shared with the driver that we had seen some beautiful birds including the nesting pelican.

He immediately discounted my delightful sighting by saying, "Oh no. They breed in North Carolina this time of year. You couldn't have seen a pelican. It must have been a blue heron."

"No, I'm pretty sure it was a pelican. Herons are slender with short beaks and this bird was stout with a long thick bill, " I pleasantly argued (especially after my last post promising to be nicer this year).

"Well," he continued in a condescending tone, "I'm a big Audubon buff and those birds go to North Carolina this time of year to breed. It must have been a blue heron."

I couldn't believe this man was about to kill my joy. It irked me that he would try to tell me something I know I had seen, so much so, that I couldn't let it go all through lunch on the beach with hubby who was siding with the shuttle driver, as being more of an expert!!

The argument with the driver continued in my head. The nerve! Yeah, have you read Audubon in Florida? I know a little bit about the guy. I've read 3 biographies of his and my great-grandfather's original print hangs on my living room wall. I know a little bit - enough to tell the difference between a heron and an pelican, for goodness sake!

I wanted to call my birder-brother, but I'd gotten my iPhone wet, so my vindication never came.
Until I got home and googled where Florida Pelicans breed in winter.

And yes, pelicans nest in the mangroves perched high over open waters, so they can soar in and out after fishing. So There, Mr Park worker!!

 I know I saw a Pelican!

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