Dead Pelican / November 27, 2007
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.
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
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
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
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