My fears from March came true: the pelicans that remained at White Rock Lake spent their time before migration hanging out on the far-away logs and didn’t come close to the shore or the dock.
While I was in Florida, I learned that Lady Katherine had been taken to Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. K called me and told me that she’d seen Lady Katherine by the dock at White Rock Lake, and Lady Katherine was holding her body strangely and was barely responsive. There was also a huge lump on her neck. K called Rogers, and someone came out and picked up Lady Katherine.
Lady Katherine’s sickness received news coverage because her care highlighted the monetary difficulties Rogers was experiencing:
Wildlife rehab center facing closure due to money woes
North Texas wildlife hospital and rehab center in danger of closing
Injured swan drives donations for wildlife rehab center
Shortfall in donations endangers Dallas-area bird rehab center
To donate to Rogers, follow this link:
Donate to Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center
Lady Katherine was extremely sick but recovered over the next week and a half. Her release was set for March 26, and I figured I’d go down to the lake to watch it.
When Kathy Rogers arrived with Lady Katherine, many of the people who had been waiting swarmed around them. I felt uncomfortable when I saw people reaching out and stroking Lady Katherine. The swan was probably quite stressed; strangers touching her could have made her even more uncomfortable.
Once Ms. Rogers released Lady Katherine at the shore, Lady Katherine splashed through the water until she was far enough out to swim, then steamed the hell away. First she swam down the creek in front of the marshy spit, then turned around and glided past the shore again, and finally went way out past the clumps of reeds and into the portion of the bay that was heavily treed. She was barely visible.
She stayed away from people for a little while but quickly became more trusting. One day I saw her swimming near the shore when there were people around. A few days later I saw her preening on the shore. Shortly after that she was following the geese again and begging for food from people.
On the day of the release a few pelicans were hanging out near the Shore Log. It was my only chance this spring to get close-up pics of adults with breeding plumage.
This pelican left, but another pelican that had been standing nearby swam over and took her place on the Shore Log.
According to J R Compton, pelicans tend to arrive on September 15 and leave by April 15. This past fall Pelican Ichiban arrived early, so I wasn’t too surprised when I went out to Sunset Bay on April 16 and saw an adult and a juvenile pelican still standing on a far-away log.
But I was surprised when I walked up the dock on April 22 and saw a juvenile pelican standing on a log near the shore.
Last year I saw a juvenile pelican hanging out on the Shore Log a few days after the 15th. She was a migrant, and she was gone the next day. This bird is not a migrant; K took pics of her a few weeks ago. She is recognizable because of the feathers missing from her breast.
One of the pelicans in the late winter population was a juvenile I called Scrappy. Scrappy had very disheveled feathers and was a low-status bird. I wonder if this bird is Scrappy. I don’t remember Scrappy missing so many feathers, but that could have happened sometime in March or April. I’m calling the bird Lola for now.
Lola was very skittish and raised her wings to fly when I first glimpsed her. She settled back down and preened as I inched further up the dock.
Eventually someone else walked up the dock, and Lola freaked. She didn’t fly, though; she ran out into the water, flapping her wings madly, and swam to one of the far-away logs.
J R said that a few years back a juvenile remained at the lake for the summer. I wonder if Lola will do that or if she is just getting a very late start on migration. She needs to be around other pelicans, even if she doesn’t go north.