On August 8, reports started coming in to the Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club that an American White Pelican had been spotted at Cohoes Flats. Needless to say, this provoked a lot of interest and we decided this was a bird we couldn’t pass up. A lone Pelican may show up in our area once in five or ten years — we are way out of this species’ normal range. Did this one follow the coast, then the Hudson, north from Georgia, or did it meander over from the midwest?
We met other birders at Cohoes, all equipped with binocs, scopes, cameras — but the pelican hadn’t gotten the memo and was not to be seen. Bill and I drove over to Peebles Island to look from a different vantage point, and when we came to the point of the island overlooking the flats, there it was! From a distance you could mistake it for a swan, until it turned and we could see the massive beak and pouch.
It put on quite a show for us, moving from the open water near the spillway to the shallows paddling between rocks and flying short distances, preening and eating. Once it stood quite near a Great Blue Heron, letting us see it was nearly as tall as the heron, and much bulkier. I really enjoyed getting such a great viewing experience. Click here for some better pictures, and if you have no objection to Yahoo Groups, I suggest you check out HMBirds. We have some very talented photographers in the group with the skill and gear for incredible shots of the pelican and plenty of other birds.
Big White stuck around for the whole month of August, sometimes hiding for a few hours but always returning to the same convenient- for-viewing spot, until Hurricane Irene dropped a foot of water on everything. The raging floods have calmed since Sunday but the river is still chocolate-milkshake brown with a county’s worth of rich topsoil scoured off. No more calm shallows with easily-seen fish. I hope our bird headed off south to the rest of his kind.