May 23 2015
Normally when I visit Magee Marsh in May the Best Bird is a warbler, but not this year.
I struck out on two Life Bird warblers — the Kirtland’s at Oak Openings and the Connecticut warbler at the Estuary Trail — and that took the wind out of my sails. However, on my last day in northwestern Ohio I visited East Harbor State Park and found three white pelicans in Middle Harbor.
American white pelicans spend the winter in California, the Gulf states, Mexico and Central America. Those who breed in the prairie potholes and lake regions of central and western North America rarely stop at Lake Erie on migration, but these three apparently spent the night at Middle Harbor. They were preening before continuing their journey.
In early breeding plumage they have bright orange bills with a laterally flattened “horn” on top. This looks odd to us but sexy to other white pelicans.
American white pelicans migrate during the day because they need thermals for lift. By 10:00am the air had heated up and the three pelicans circled up and headed northwest.
They were my Best Bird this week — other than peregrine falcons, of course.
(photo by Pat Gaines)