Wednesday, October 10, 2012

White Pelicans in Westchester!

On Sunday, Benjamin van Doren and I birded Rye, hoping to find the pair of American White Pelicans that were seen Saturday at the Marshlands Conservancy. We started our search at Marshlands, and saw lots of birding, highlighted by a few Nelson's, Lincoln's and White-crowned Sparrows, a nice Pileated Woodpecker. There were lots of warblers: Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Blackpoll, Yellow-rumped, Tennessee, Magnolia, Northern Parula, Yellowthroat, Black-and-white, and Nashville, with the Black-and-white Warblers a surprising sighting this late in the fall. Despite the abundance of birds, there pelicans were nowhere to be found.

We decided to check briefly a few spots up the Rye coast a bit to try to locate the pelicans. Rye Beach had lots of raptors overhead (Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Kestrel, and Cooper's, Sharp-shinned, and Red-tailed Hawks), but no pelicans. We decided to make one last stop at the Edith Read Sanctuary, behind the Rye Playland amusement park. Playland lake was devoid of ducks and pelicans, but when we stepped out of the car at the nature center, two gigantic white birds with huge bills and black flight feathers flew directly overhead!
Not a very good photo, but they are pretty unmistakable
The pelicans started gaining altitude and seemed to be soaring south towards Marshlands, but then turned around, circled a bit, headed north, and then south, then finally, after being in view for 20 minutes, they disappeared northward.
Then twice more, as we were birding the wooded area of the Sanctuary, we would look up to see the two pelicans soaring overhead. They eventually stopped circling back, but someone else reported them from a lake just north of Playland, and they are apparently still in the area today.
My high school's mascot, the Pelham Pelican (which is white) has always seemed a bit far-fetched given the general absence of pelicans from the area, but these birds proved that a real pelican could indeed show up in Westchester.

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