Pelican Pop-up

As if on a signal, dozens of Brown Pelicans descended out of a blue sky onto the waters of the North Basin this morning and held a wild, riotous party. A score of Double-Crested Cormorants joined the fray.

A school of fish must have been the attraction, although I didn’t see anybody catch and consume anything. While swimming, the pelicans can dip their beaks and scoop up prey near the surface. In the morning light you could see no prey in the transparent pouch of their beaks. The cormorants can dive deep, but didn’t come up with anything to show the world, either.

Paddling and flying in short bursts, the pelicans and their followers described a big circle, moving south along the west shore of the water, then north along the Virginia Street Extension, then north along the east shore, and back again toward the middle. After about an hour their ranks thinned, and soon the waters belonged to the Bufflehead.

With all the rapid flying back and forth it wasn’t possible to get anything resembling an accurate count. My best estimate is about 70 pelicans, 25 cormorants. The pelican count was second only to the more than 100 that I counted in the air from photos a year ago.

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