Before I went out to the lake, I checked the backyard for any interesting insects or birds. I saw this paper wasp hanging out on an old section of fence.
Back to migration madness!
Pelicans loaf in different areas of the bay depending upon weather, temperature, time of year, time of day, age (juvenile versus adult), safety considerations, and how many other pelicans are around. Sometimes the presence of geese or large numbers of cormorants can dissuade pelicans from loafing in certain places. On this day, a small group of pelicans had congregated on the loafing grounds by the dock, and more were swimming in that direction.
Once the squabble ended, the shore pelicans went back to grooming and sleeping. That meant it was time for me to see what the other pelicans were doing.
Luckily, I only had to glance over at the Queen of the Log log to observe some action. A pelican had just jumped on the log next to a bird who had been loafing there by herself.
A nearby juvenile who was preening while standing in the water paused to perform a gular flutter.
An adult was sleeping in the shallow water by the loafing grounds.
A juvenile was swimming toward the shore.
Then I saw the first instance of pelican play for the day. A pelican who was fishing way out by the far-away logs found a mutilated red plastic cup, picked it up, tossed it in the air, and caught it.
The pelican maneuvered the cup into her pouch and swam around for about a minute, occasionally clamping her upper beak down onto the cup to keep it inside her pouch.
When she dropped the cup and, despite her attempts, wasn’t able to retrieve it, I looked around again.
5J1 was still at White Rock Lake and had chosen a log to loaf on that held a mature pelican. She half-heartedly snapped at the adult.
The adult gaped and snapped back.
Sometimes when pelicans snap at each other, they get into an odd rhythm. One pelican leans forward and gapes or snaps at a rival, and in the middle of the snap, the challenged bird gapes and snaps back. By the time the first pelican has finished snapping, the second bird is in the middle of her own snap, which the first pelican then responds to with yet another gape or snap. The birds never snap at each other at the same time. I wonder if that behavior is intentional, keeping the threat as just a warning. If the pelicans were both leaning forward and snapping at each other at the same time, conflict would probably escalate.
Far out in the water again, another bird had found an important piece of trash: a water bottle! Unfortunately, she didn’t do much with it.
The Queen of the Log pelican fell asleep.
Something spooked the pelicans—I don’t remember what. The good news was that the birds weren’t totally freaked out. No one was going into super-alert mode, where the birds straighten up and hold their wings slightly out from their sides so they are ready to take off instantly. The birds were suspicious but not terrified. They got into alert mode, where they all straighten up and look in the same direction, and when the danger was not resolved to their satisfaction, they began to cautiously slink away. It’s the same behavior that I’ve seen from pelicans when I walk where they can see me at times when they (presumably) haven’t seen people for a while, such as on a very cold day. If no further interruptions occur, most of the pelicans will often return to where they were originally hanging out.
Although I would vastly prefer the pelicans to not be frightened, the potential for something dramatic or interesting to happen goes way up when they are moving around the area. Such as the next bird, who found an interesting piece of trash but had a hell of a time trying to grip it.
Luckily, a few minutes later the same bird was able to find an object that was easier to zoom around with.
Elsewhere, another pelican was starting to fall asleep. I love it when pelicans let their long flight feathers droop down, like they are so tired that they’ve forgotten to hold the feathers tucked up under their wings.
A coot swam up to the dock and peeped at me. It did not try to pull me down under the water and drown me.
Another pelican found two pecans stuck together and tossed them in the air a few times, retrieving them from the water when she was unable to catch them in her beak. This pelican will make another appearance in part 2, when she discovers that water bottles can make great toys.
I will end part 1 with a bathing pelican. Part 2 should be up much sooner than I’ve promised in the past!