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The Amateur Birder's Journal - Stories & Photographs by J R Compton
All contents © 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in any form without written permission.
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Dead Pelican / November 27, 2007

Dead Pelican - Copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Dead Pelican on the Shore at Sunset Bay

I saw it almost as soon as I noticed that the shore crew of about 20 of the 81 or more American White Pelicans that are visiting White Rock Lake this winter were on the tip of the narrow island in the densely forested area called Hidden Creek north of Sunset Bay. I photographed it almost immediately.

Murdered Pelican - Copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Murdered Pelican

I had trouble holding the camera still, even at 1/500th of a second. Most of my shots of it lying in the patch of mud and feathers and scattered papers and leaves are either out of focus or blurred slightly. The boggish shore is mushy, and I was afraid I would plunge through its surface into the cold muck beneath it. I balanced precariously.

Dead Pelican Beak in Mud - Copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Dead Pelican Beak in Mud

And shot as much variety of angle and framing as I could manage. It was the first dead pelican I'd ever seen, and I'd hoped not ever to have seen this many. I know. I know. Death is a part of life, and these creatures are wild, and the area is inhabited with other wild creatures, including too many stupid humans.

Flies in Its Eyes - Copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction in Any Medium Without Specific Written Permission.

Flies In Its Eyes

I escaped the area dry-footed this time. Drove off to the nearest grocery store for some trash bags. I got the strongest ones I could find, paying extra for the thickness. Hefty Ultra Flex large with Puncture Protection, 20% thicker.

Came back with one bag deployed, walking gingerly over the bog, got the bird in the bag. First step, my left foot went under, maybe 3 inches total, water and mud. I quickly carried the stinking carcass to Blue's trunk. Put that bag into another bag and drove off, hoping to photograph it still in sunshine in my mostly secluded back yard.

I tried, but I couldn't get it to show the beak feather details I was curious about. Where are those black feathers that show up under their wings sometimes but usually they look like all-white birds? How is the pouch constructed? And how is the pincer point on the end of their beaks attached? How do the structure of their long (up to six feet long each) wings work?

I still have lots of questions that close-ups of a pelican body might answer. John Jay Audubon killed dozens of each species, so his famous drawings and descriptions would be accurate. I didn't want to kill one of these magnificent birds just to answer my many questions, but as long as some other idiot creature had, why not make use of it?

The answer, so far, is death stench. I took some feathers, for the first time knowing for certain they came from a pelican, because I pulled them from one. But I couldn't arrange it intelligently, and put the carcass back in the bag. In three bags, total, hoping to avoid the smell.

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All text and photographs copyright 2007 by J R Compton. All Rights Reserved.

No reproduction in any form or format without specific written permission.