Friday, February 11, 2011


Oh yeah. I love this one.

What follows is an unauthorized copy of the Peliterodactylican Flight Manual.

Step one: Get airborne.

Step Two: Flaps down, Airbrake over fish.

Step Three: Tuck in and plummet.

Step Four: Continue plummet procedure.

Step Five: Begin wing retraction to facilitate water entry.

Step Six: Streamlined water entry.

Step 7: Make a big splash.

Step 8: Gloat and rub in your success to your pal, Dexter.

"Did you see that last plummet, Dex ? Wow, I looked amazing. Caught a mullet too. You need a few plummet tips? Really, I don't mind showing you how it's done. "

Tuesday, the pelicans in St. Augustine Inlet were working a school of fish like a high school football team working a Golden Corral buffet.

A falling tide was funneling fish into a narrow kill zone and the pterodactyllic pelicans were taking names and kicking bass.

(That's fish humor right there)

In actuality they were probably after mullet, the "real" chicken of the sea.

It was pretty swooshsplashtacular with pelicans barely getting airborne before plummeting back into the sea after fish.

... and multiple plummets too! I was shooting like crazy and you can see from the over abundant selection of photos in this post that I had waaaay too many photos to choose from.

Although I was off Tuesday ... playing hooky to take my Dad to the doctor, my pelican time at the inlet came in handy back at work the next day.

It just so happens, I returned to school on Wednesday at a point in our Environmental Science class where the concept of "Canaries in the mind shaft" came up. We were watching a brief video called, "Coral Reefs, Canaries of The Sea" . I had a feeling today's kids might not know the canary in the mine shaft analogy, so I asked them, before the video, what that phrase meant.

Only in one of 4 classes, did anyone have an accurate grasp of the concept. I explained the history and the meaning of the phrase and then, with pelicans fresh on my mind, I gave them another example ... the DDT, pelican, eagle, osprey situation of my childhood.

Now, let me tell you, teenagers love it when you start out with, "Now, when I was a kid ..."

A few quick questions before I started the tale gave me this background info :

  1. They have never heard of DDT.

  2. They have never heard of Rachel Carson, or Silent Spring.

  3. They had no idea that the eagles, ospreys, and pelicans that they see routinely (in this county) were on the verge of extinction in the 1970's ... due to DDT.

Well, they can't say that anymore, because I gave them an earful, with the point being that dropping bird populations amounted to "a canary in the mine shaft" ... just like dying coral reefs

Too think, ... we almost lost this.
Thank you Eagles, Pelicans, Ospreys of the 60's and 70's.
We needed the warning.
And we heeded it for once. (GO US!)
The question is ... will the indoor-oriented, virtual world kids of today notice the next canary in the mineshaft?


Anonymous said...

Love these photos, looks like great shots to me. I love watching the pterodactlys feed. Nothing better. Sad, I grew up along the Gulf Coast and never saw a pelican till I was in my 30's, and was on the East Coast. I grew up in the 60's and 70's. Glad you are sharing with the chillin, what's what.
Sad a lot of adults in my age range have no clue either. Wonder where these folks spend their time. I'm no expert but your ears and eyes and mind.
Tammy in LA

Barbie said...

I think only if the canary, rather than a living thing, is their TVS. Now- the TVs quit working and suddenly they will take notice!

rebecca said...

Pelican splashdowns are awesome, I could stand on the beach watching them for hours! I remember watching them with some classmates on a trip to Costa Rica when I was in college, and giving them points out of ten for their dives.

As for your comments about your students... that is why environmental education for young people is more important than ever!

Deb said...

I have noticed in the 19 years since I started working on lakes in my area I have seen increasing numbers of white pelicans. I have never seen them do the splashdown thing, but I see them swimming in flocks dipping for small fish. They are about the stinkiest birds though!

Floridacracker said...

Well said. The kids aren't alone and they can't know if someone doesn't pass it on.
Well, actually they could find it all on their own, but they need the spark to go find out.

Or their Wiis and Xboxes. NOW that would grab their attention!

TOTALLY awesome!! Maybe only Gannets are more WOW!!!

We only have whites during migration and then only here and there, but I think you described their SOP. I don't think they are dramatic divers like Browns.

threecollie said...

Great post! Fantastic photos!

edifice rex said...

Ooooh! pelican and beach envy!!! ;)

Sandcastle Momma said...

I love to watch pelicans. These pics of a dive are great!

Island Rider said...

"like a high school football team working a Golden Corral buffet."

You are one awesome writer and the photos are not bad either.

Bill said...


Anonymous said...

Whites don't dive. We have them here in migration too on the north side of Mobile Bay, into the Tensaw Delta. They do a team effort and corral fish and have a group lunch. You can sometimes see them from I-10.


Lynn said...

Only one in four classes?!?! YIKES!!! We just recently had this discussion in our house. I'm still not convinced that all is hunky dory in the gulf and there have been too many bird/fish kills for my liking. I'm so glad you got those pics of the pelicans. Living in Miami we saw many on the beaches, but I think that was there the majority of the population was. I remember the eagles being on the endangered list and now they are flourishing. I've even seen a few in our neighborhood. Still havent figured out if that is a good thing or bad thing.....

Floridacracker said...

Thanks! They were pretty cooperative!

LOL! The snow is always greener ...

Thanks! I love watching them 2!

Cathy S,
So, I take it you've seen a team doing exactly that. Awesome sight isn't? LOL

Thanks pal.

Thanks! I didn't think they did. Just haven't been around em enough to say for sure.

I know. The Gulf is pretty resilient but the deep benthic critters got whacked from what I read. Time will tell.

Julie Zickefoose said...

Woo, a fishing pelican flock in perfect light, what more could a photographer want? These are splootacular.

I bet Latin American kids know what DDT is, because we're still making it to sell south of the border where environmental regulations aren't so stringent. Just another example of the awesomeness of large chemical companies. Nearly wiped out the Swainson's hawk, which feeds on grasshoppers in the heavily sprayed fields of Argentina.

Like you, I'm grateful for the reboundability of pelicans, wood storks, ospreys, eagles...all of 'em that we both thought would be extinct in our lifetimes.

Floridacracker said...

I like it!

Yes, I mentioned to the kids that it's not used here, but not to assume it wasn't used somewhere else.
Makes me wonder about produce from south of the equator.

Octohawk said...

Someone recently tried to tell me that science had debunked Silent Spring and the damage DDT did on bird populations. I didn't hear any credible sources being cited, though.

Anyway, great photos. I love pelicans. Always have.

Kathy in Delray Beach said...

NEVER heard of DDT? Canary in the coal mine? I take so much for granted. I am so fortunate that I had a science teacher that loved using the film library at Boise State U where my mom worked in the 70s. Mom brought home a nature movie every Friday night for us. The 20-somethings I work with had NO idea who Jane Goodall is, until I gushed over having the privilege of hearing her speak!

It is an important job you do sharing/teaching your experience!

Kathy in Delray Beach