I was pretty excited last night when I heard my son say, "There's a HUGE bird on the beach." First, that's about five more words than I typically get out of him. And second because he was noticing something natural and not something digital. And to my amazement, he kept talking. "It's a swan or something."
Of course I had to see for myself, so I headed out for the door with my camera. I didn't even have to leave the kitchen before I saw it for myself, this mass of white floating as if it were styrofoam over the lake. I've only seen this big bird in Duluth 2 or 3 times before, but I knew right away it was a pelican. The White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos.
But I continued down to the beach. Pelicans are here in Duluth only as a "casual straggler." Funny that out in the lake behind it was another straggler, the Dutch-flagged saltie Kwintebank.
This morning I caught another glimpse of the pelican, still out the kitchen window. I headed out again, this time with the dog, and managed to get closer to the bird as it swam along the beach. Zooming in, I managed not so shoddy a picture.
We kept on walking down the beach, dog and I. When I turned around, the big bird was nowhere to be seen on the lake. Within a minute or two, I realized why: it was up on the beach. So dog and I carefully made our way high up on the beach near the dunes and walked respectfully past the bird. The pelican was quiet and moved just slowly, keeping one eye on me and the poodle at all times.
The pelican, up close, is more beautiful and more big than I ever imagined. Every twist and turn of the neck is gorgeous to watch, and the long beak. When I got back home, I read in my bird guide that pelican's wing span can be up to 9 1/2 feet...WOW. Back in our living room, I showed my son how that wing span would reach from one side of the room to the other.
Thanks, pelican, for visiting Lake Superior and giving us all a little thrill.