01 November 2008

Plenty of Pelicans

Today, I recorded changes in the north shore tideline along Fort Pickens. Once I was finished, I was able to take time for a bird survey on the south shore. It's so much fun to watch the birdies!

I ran into another park employee walking down by the fort, trying not to disturb the flock of pelicans resting on a sand bar. They were everywhere today!

I did cause them to fly after I counted them and drove by. I try to give them space, but the sound of the ATV always seems to spook them.

That may not be the worst thing on a cold day as the activity warms them, and their sandwich tern (SATE), laughing gull (LAGU) and herring gull (HERG) friends!

Watching them float en masse on the wind, I wondered about the parallel behaviors between schools of fish and bird flocks. The impressive synchronized behavior can help protect them from predators, leaving the vulnerable, weak or slow more exposed to attack than the strong. Did the behavior evolve separately in these two divergent vertebrate groups?

Of course, there were other birds about as well, like this pair of wading willets (WILL). They sound like squeaky wheels when startled.

My favorite RUTUs (ruddy turnstones) were active as well.

This lucky one found a clam washed out by a passing wave. It looks like hard work to get at the tiny meal!

The pre-Ivan road is much more visible on the south shore these days as well. It's interesting to see how it's becoming part of the habitat, supporting algal growth and who knows what else... I may have to go tidepooling a bit next time I'm out there!

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