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Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Arrival of Fat White Jowled Americans

What is big, fat, white, American with big jowls?

Last night my friend Sheryl Johnson was watching the sky over Haverford College, hoping to catch sight of the shorebird flocks that pass over SE Pennsylvania at dusk on late spring days with south winds.  While watching the sky, she and her daughter and friends were surprised so see five American White Pelicans flapping south in the fading light about ten minutes before sunset (eBird report).

I lives about eight miles away and dashed outside on the outside chance that they might pass by my house.  But no dice.  Sheryl speculated that they might stop at nearby Springton Reservoir, or perhaps on the Delaware River.  I hoped they would put down at dark and that somehow I might be able to see them--since they've never been reported in the county before.

With sunrise at 5:30am, I was at Springton Reservoir at 5:20.  I scoped it out, but no dice.  By 6:20 I was at my usual vantage point on the Delaware River behind the Philadelphia airport.  Nothing was on the river close by, but then scoping downstream, I spotted five large white birds about 2.5 miles downstream!  I quickly threw my scope in the car and dashed down the the western end of the airport to get a better look.  Sure enough, there they were, our five American White Pelicans sitting pretty on the water in the early morning light!

First documentary shots of birds half mile away on the Delaware River behind PHL airport.

I had to get home to get my kids to school, but I grabbed a few quick documentary digiscoped shots and put word out on the local birding text alerts.  After other birders arrived, they reported that the birds were slowly drifting downstream, so on my way back to the river I decided to check out a downstream vantage point near Governor Printz Park in Essington.  Sure enough, there the birds were, much closer and in excellent light.  I put word out and several birders joined me to enjoy watching them float towards the western end of Little Tinicum Island.

Pelicans lounging on the river near Governor Printz Park in Essington, PA

Eventually they waddled up onto the shore, occasionally flapping wings and giving great looks until they were buzzed by a young Bald Eagle and took off heading downstream.

We watched them rise higher and higher, up over the Commodore Berry, heading west and out of sight.
American White Pelicans heading west about 9:20am after being buzzed by an eagle.

Up, up, and away!  Heading to Delaware downstream.

So great to be able to relocate these fat, white, jowled American birds--the first to be seen in Delaware County, PA--and to share the sighting with friends.  Life is good!

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