Monday, April 22, 2013

White Pelicans at Sunset

 Final Florida, 2013 post

Have I mentioned lately what a lucky girl I am? How blessed to have this life? To be able to spend my time enjoying the beauty this world holds, to capture it with my camera and make art from it, is a gift that is simply beyond my comprehension. Thanks to you for taking the time to share it with me.

My mom and I had had a great day at the refuge, and had seen tons of birds. I think I added nine new birds to my list on this trip, six of them at the Merritt Island NWR. I think just about all the birds we saw were firsts for my mom.

As we stood on the observation deck watching a few herons and egrets, I noticed a white pelican flying in from my right. I hurried and got the camera on it as it approached us.

White pelican.

 I was thrilled when it changed course and flew in a circle right in front of us!

Just eight or ten years ago digital cameras would never have been able to capture this shot, a white bird on a dark background. The whites would have been completely blown out. Imaging technology has come a LONG way in a decade.

Then, it continued on in the direction it had been heading, off to the north.

To my further amazement, a group of about five birds flew past shortly after, and did the exact same thing--banked around and flew in a circle right in front of us. They were so close I couldn't get them all in the frame!

 I had thought that the white pelican was a threatened bird, but I looked them up on the Cornell Ornithology site and they are a species of least concern. Huh. At any rate they winter along the Gulf coast but breed in the Central Plains and into Canada. They are fresh-water birds, compared to their cousin the brown pelican, who feed in both fresh and salt water. They are astoundingly graceful fliers, often soaring without flapping on those huge, black-tipped wings.

I have seen white pelicans on many of my trips to MINWR but never at such close range. My heart pounded while I photographed these magnificent birds.

 They too circled around and continued off to the north. What a rush!

We stopped at the restrooms to take a break before finishing the drive and heading back to my grandmother's house. I was exhausted but exhilarated. Some clouds had moved in and sprawled across the sky, obscuring the sun.

Sunset over Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

While I enjoyed the sunset, a flock of 27 great egrets rose up and flew across the pale sky. I had never seen such a thing, so many of these birds together, and I thanked them for this parting gift.

Great egrets.

And with this I conclude the posts from my Florida trip--back in January!! None too soon, either--mid-April in Southern Michigan is migration time, and we are seeing many birds returning, or passing through. The girls and I did a little birding around our area yesterday and saw buffleheads, ring-necked ducks, TONS of yellow-rumped warblers and ruby-crowned kinglets. We also appear to have a pair of brown thrashers nesting in a brush pile on our property--a pile I nearly burned this winter. Glad I didn't, as I hope to document some of their family life this spring.

As always, thanks for reading--there's more good stuff to come!

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