Have you heard of a “rookery island” where dozens of birds of several species flock at sunset to find sanctuary for the night? I have found it magical to observe: as one great egret and eight ibis and three cormorants and six pelicans and a couple great blue heron and even more and more soar in from every direction and land side by side on every available branch of a tiny island of mangrove trees as the sun turns a brilliant orange and the light rapidly fades across the water… and the scene is silent.
I described the scene to my uninitiated friends as a Christmas tree fully decorated with ornaments on every bough, or a crowded church were a few more families arrive late and say, “please make room for us.”
Sometimes do you just wish that when you walked in the door, your sweetheart would greet you at the door with a big hug and kiss? Or maybe just stop what he/she is doing and look up?
That moment, of wishing for for attention from your sweetie when you arrive — or land on the sandbar — came to mind as I watched these American White Pelicans come and go on Sanibel Island. These enormous migratory birds, averaging 16 pounds, have the second largest wingspan of all birds in North America, second only to the California Condor. This one may have wintered as far north as Wyoming, and now the squadron is enjoying the Florida sunshine and lots of fresh seafood.
As the White Pelicans landed and stretched their wings and then preened their feathers, I thought of so many captions, imagining what the body language seemed to say. (More White Pelican photos to come!)
Happy Valentine’s Day, my friends. May your sweetie look up when you enter the room!
“Mind if I join you?” is the quote that comes to mind. There is something about this clumsy looking, yet actually graceful pelican landing that I find endearing. Brown pelicans are huddling in close quarters on this rookery island to spend the night.
It is a privilege to watch all of these graceful birds flock to the island in Rookery Bay (near Naples, Florida) at sunset. This close up is a cropped image, captured with a 200mm Nikon lens. We are not as close as we appear, and we stay silent to avoid disturbing this natural daily migration.
The sunset Eco-cruise is provided by the Southwest Conservancy. Buy your own ticket online at conservancy.org.
Did you ever wonder where the pelicans go at night to sleep? Their favorite spot is an island in the bay, safe from land-based predators like raccoons. In this image, shot in Rookery Bay south of Naples, Florida, you can see a large number of pelicans getting settled for the night at sunset.
Our boat cut the engine and floated silently, so we could watch the pelicans and other large wading birds settle in on their rookery island. It was a privilege to watch this natural phenomenon up close.
Early Sunday morning, they sought light, peace and community. You could call it Bird Church. This flock of unusual white pelicans mingled with the cormorants. All I can say is this: I was grateful to bear witness.