Pelicans Pounce on Herring Harvest

Mid-afternoon on New Year’s Eve there was hot and heavy bird action in the upper end of the North Basin.  Dive-bombing Brown Pelicans threw up explosive bursts of white water.  The herring were running in the Bay, and via the birds’ own twitter system the news spread fast.  I rarely saw more than two pelicans hunting in this area, but yesterday there were — by the count of a more expert birder with binoculars — more than thirty.  As always, a set of sea gull groupies hung about hoping for scraps or handouts.  

The harassed herrings hurried toward the eastern shore, out of the optical range of my little camera, positioned near the fenced Burrowing Owl preserve on the northeast corner of the park.  With the naked eye you could see little beyond a few dots and white splashes. My blurry images won’t win any photo contests.  Still, they convey something of the excitement of the moment.  

The pelicans dive-bomb almost straight down, beak extended like a spear.  Sometimes they enter the water upside down, as in the sequence below.  They fold their wings at the last split second.  They throw up a big splash and disappear completely below the surface.

Below is a collage showing several of the hunting groups of pelicans at different points along the north end of the North Basin.

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