Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I've Seen Pelicans and Pterodactyls

Seahorse Key is an island in the Gulf of Florida, beyond the island town of Cedar Key. It's a National Wildlife Refuge, which means you and I ... and more importantly, our great, great grandchildren own and protect it together. (Thank you Teddy)

Seahorse is a major seabird rookery site and all kinds of seabirds court their honeys, mate, and raise chicks there. Since it's a refuge and not a "park", you and I are restricted in our access. We can use the waters and the shores, but the interior is generally off limits for us.

In the spring, even the shore is off limits for a while so that the seabirds can nest without interruption. That seems a small price to pay for a new crop of herons, egrets, frigate birds, ospreys, pelicans, black skimmers, pterodactyls, etc.

I have had the pleasure of spending weeks at a time out on the island working Marine Science camps for teens. The University of Florida has a rustic Marine Research Center there inside a mid-1800's era lighthouse which has been partially converted to rustic dorm rooms, a classroom, and a galley. The entire island is one huge forested sand dune with an incredible elevation of 57 feet above sea level. The old lighthouse sits nestled in the forest at the peak of this dune. In the nesting season, as you walk up the long path to the lighthouse, the oaks along the way are filled with pelican nests and goofy, whiny pelican chicks.

Sadly, the camp funding went away about 8 years ago when Mr. FCAT was elected governor. We all worship "THE TEST" now and enriching experiences are not a priority. Maybe with a new governor ...

Sorry, bit of editorial there ...let me get back to the island and the birds ...


We came dangerously close to losing our pelicans back when I was a kid. The pesticide DDT had decimated them ... Louisianna actually lost all her pelicans during this time. When public awareness of DDT's effects (Thank you Rachel) resulted in a ban, the pelicans slowly recovered.
I love their comical faces, their grace as they soar in formation, and the way cool sea surface air cushion gliding thing they do.
When I see pelicans, I have no problem imagining what pterodactyls looked like. Take another look at that top picture if you do.
Long ago, on a childhood trip to Cape Kennedy to see one of the Apollo rockets, I was sure I spotted a pterodactyl as we took the bus tour through the Canaveral mangroves. My parents did not believe me, but I was convinced. It was a moment in that magical childhood time when harsh reality has not set in and a dinosaur crazed kid (Thank you Roy) could still convince himself that some of the old reptiles might still be running around in the wilds.
Thinking back, I suppose it was a pelican. Seen from a distance and backlit by the sun, a pelican would certainly resemble a pterodactyl.
Nobody else seemed to see it and they certainly did NOT turn the tour bus around when I shouted, " LOOK! A PTERODACTYL!!"
It must have been a pelican.
Still ...
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17 comments:

pissed off patricia said...

When we cross the bridge each year going over to Sanibel/Captiva, I always watch for a flying pelican and if I see one I consider it good luck and that our vacation will be all I want it to be. So far it has always worked.

When I worked for the wildlife hospital, I went to pick up an injured pelican. The people who had found it had secured it in a big cardboard box. I placed the box in the back area of my minivan and started back to the wildlife hospital. Along the way I stopped at a red light and was just sitting there. I looked over at the car beside me and the people in that car were looking at my car with strange expressions on their faces. I looked into my rear view mirror to see my injured pelican out of his box and standing in my back seat. He was looking out the window, back at the people in the other car. Since he didn't seem to be upset with his situation, that's the way he rode all the way back to the hospital.

I could write a book about all my fun and not so fun experiences I got to have while I was working there.

vicki said...

Someone has to do it, might as well be me:

A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His mouth can hold more than his belly can,
He can hold in his beak,
Enough food for a week!
I'm darned if I know how the hell he can! (Dixon Merrith)

And...

King and Queen of the Pelicans we;
No other Birds so grand we see!
None but we have feet like fins!
With lovely leathery throats and chins!
Ploffskin, Pluffskin, Pelican jee!
We think no Birds so happy as we!
Plumpskin, Ploshkin, Pelican jill!
We think so then, and we thought so still! (Edward Lear)

I love pelicans. I MISS them- there's nary a one here in Chicago, not even at the zoo. That's just as well- they belong in a time and a place.

Paintsmh said...

Ohhh, they are so cool looking.

Peggy said...

That top photo is PERFECT!

robin andrea said...

We always loved seeing the pelicans in California, and missed them terribly when we moved here to Washington. That's why it was such a treat to see them the other night. Every now and I then I read about the bird sightings on the local birdwatching site, and have read others say they've seen pelicans. Nice to know they stop by this far north every now and then.

Vicki, I recited that limerick the other night. It's really impossible not to!

threecollie said...

You know I love your blog...one of my three favorites, and posts like this make it easy to know why. I think I grew up reading that guy, you know, Roy of the dinosaurs. The folks had a used book store; I spent a lot of time minding it, and read the merchandise to stave off ever-looming teenage summer boredom. Thus the real Tarzan, Tom Swift and the Hardy Boys were good friends. Anyhow, if his middle name was Chapman, it was the same guy. And then my grandpa's name was Theodore Roosevelt Montgomery, so admiring Teddy forms another wee link. Thanks for the ever varied entertainment and education you share every day.

misti said...

My favorite pterodactyl's are frigate's. Love seeing them soar. Someone at work once saw one on Tamiami Trail, which is odd.

Rurality said...

Love the perricans. :)

My favorite thing is when they dive WHAP! down into the water for a fish.

Cathy said...

Look. If the Ivory Bill is still out there, then by gum! - you could have seen that Pterodactl. Keep the dream.

Deb said...

We get white pelicans around here every once in a while. I love how the flocks alternately soar, then flap, then soar, all in unison.

Sandy said...

Thanks for the trip through the Wildlife Refuge. I think pelicans are very unusual looking birds and I've tried to photograph them from a distance, but only get little spots that resemble birds. You're right, they remind me of birds left over from the dinosaur age.

Floridacracker said...

POP,
LOL!I can picture it!
You should write those stories!

Vicki,
Love those poems, but love your ending better.

Paintsmh,
Truly they are.

Peggy,
Now I know I done good :)

Robin,
Your excitement over seeing a pelican at your blog made me sit down and write this :)

ThreeCollie,
Roy Chapman Andrews ... the real Indiana Jones. I read all his stuff as a kid. I'm so glad you find familiar things here at PF and I very much appreciate the kind words.

Misti,
That does seem kind of inland for a pelagic bird.Definitely cool birds tho.

Rurality,
That is cool the way the drop and scoop.
Ever see gannets? Tres amazing.

Cathy,
Good point. I will.

Deb,
We get winter whites, but mostly they are a south FL thing.

Sandy,
These came soaring over my boat so I lucked out.

rm said...

OMG---you must've been the cutest kid!

mockinbird said...

You may have seen a pterodactyl way back then.
They invented the dactyl pepper!
Hee hee!

Love your blog.
Mockinbird

Floridacracker said...

RM,
My Momma thinks so ...
:)

Mockinbird,
I LOVE dactyl peppers. Just finished tossing a few into a big pot of Minorcan clam chowder!
LOL! Welcome to Pure Florida!

Rurality said...

Yep! Saw gannets in Nova Scotia. I thought immediately of pelicans. Whap! :)

Tony Payne said...

I have been wondering what the Pterodactyls were flying over the ocean in South Florida. Just looked up and they are Frigate Birds. With a pointy tail and distinctive wings, Pterodactyl is the perfect description for them.