[Tweeters] what's with the pelicans?

notcalm at comcast.net notcalm at comcast.net
Sun May 2 22:34:14 PDT 2010


I did post pelican sightings at Ocean Shores and South a week ago (see below). I was surprised to see them, gliding by. I saw about 40 in small groups coming into the jetty area from the North on an approaching storm. All appeared to be adults. A local who appears to be a good and long observer of local beaches and is interested in certain patterns, told me, "the pelicans were here very late in the year, and I noticed some a few weeks ago. We found one standing in a ditch and I was able to walk right up to it without it moving. Something's different."

Dan Reiff
"Dan Reiff, PhD" < notcalm at comcast.net >

---- Forwarded Message -----
From: notcalm at comcast.net
To: "Tweeters" < Tweeters at u.washington.edu >
Cc: "Dan Reiff, PhD" < notcalm at comcast.net >
Sent: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 2:26:58 AM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific
Subject: Ocean Beaches, Monday-California gulls and Brown Pelicans

Hello Tweeters Community,

California Gulls and Brown Pelicans appeared Monday on the coastal beaches. A few isolated Whimbrel, Brant and Caspians came through at Midway. Large flocks of geese moved with approaching storm. M Godwits, Western SPs and Semi-palmated Plovers were present on many beaches. A few ducks, Semi-palmated plovers and Western SPs were present and I could hear, but not see other shorebirds at Midway Ponds. All seemed to be intent on being hidden, if not silent, safely waiting out the storm. The ponds were unusually large, and difficult to approach and fully view. Did find one full breeding plumage Ruddy Turnstone on the trip and one first year, light phase Glaucous Gull- each always special for me.

The winds and rain were impressive on Monday afternoon. The one surreal experience I had was firmly holding on to my hat and binoculars in strong, steady wind- a blur of sand flowing close to the ground all around me at the ponds, when suddenly I noticed the new, gigantic wind turbines on the hills above Grayland. The blades were still! Later, locals told me that they would not spin until early Summer after being connected to the grid. I was at first startled by the sight of the huge structures, followed by thinking how out of place they looked, wondered about the effect on birds, considered the environmental costs of other alternatives, then surprisingly quickly, found acceptance.

I spent some time on, then beside the OS jetty. I was told yet another person was injured there recently and had both legs broken by high surf and a wave-lifted log. As the winds grew, I moved close beside the rip-rap looking for rock-pipers. I was impressed by water breaking over the jetty and eventually retreated. There was an impressive amount of large debris including logs on the cove beach, all the way up to the car. Must have been very high tides this Winter to place the logs, I thought. Later, when I inquired about the history of jetty injuries, a man at the interpretive center said: "did you see all of the logs and materials on the beach? Most of it was carried over the jetty in storms. People don't understand that sometimes, logs and deadheads, mostly underwater, can be suddenly carried onto or over the jetty by high winds and surf. Even the parking lot has lots of large stuff after a storm." My mind spun with images of winds, tide and surf hurling logs over that barrier and the energy necessary to make that happen. I will never look at the logs on the beach in the same way.

Best regards,
Dan Reiff
Mercer Island
"Dan Reiff, PhD" < notcalm at comcast.net >
----- Original Message -----
From: "Dennis Paulson" <dennispaulson at comcast.net>
To: "TWEETERS" <tweeters at u.washington.edu>
Sent: Sunday, May 2, 2010 8:16:48 PM GMT -08:00 US/Canada Pacific
Subject: [Tweeters] what's with the pelicans?

Hello, tweeters.

I'm surprised not to read anything about Brown Pelicans in all the accounts of the Grays Harbor Shorebird Festivals. I do realize they're not shorebirds, but I saw mentions of King Eiders and Peregrine Falcons and other such non-shorebirds.

To me at the coast this weekend the most astonishing thing was the number of pelicans and the fact that all we saw were adults in full breeding plumage. There may have been immatures present, but none flew by us among the dozens and dozens of pelicans streaming out of a roost at Westport. Pelicans in spring? A few years ago this would have been eye-popping, but I haven't detected a single popped eye among birders this weekend.

I would have thought that the Pacific coastal population (those breeding in southern California and northern Mexico) would have been at breeding colonies right now. It's possible that a strong El Niño is preventing breeding, as sometimes these populations forgo breeding during an El Niño event. Some news sites have claimed this last winter as a strong El Niño period, perhaps responsible for all the winter storms in California (and our spring storms right now?). But the El Niño conditions are predicted to weaken over the summer, so the effects shouldn't be so strong at this time.

I hope that the North American Birds editors will discuss this pelican phenomenon all up and down the Pacific coast, as what is happening now on the coast of Washington is unprecedented. Parenthetically, does anyone know how many pelicans were reported on the Grays Harbor Christmas Bird Count?

Dennis Paulson
1724 NE 98 St.
Seattle, WA 98115
dennispaulson at comcast.net

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