Working on the river...

     It is dawn and the sky is ice blue with no hint of clouds on the horizon. A passing frontal system has cleared out the moisture and cold northerly winds blow over the land and streams. Temperatures have dipped near freezing and below. For those working on the river though it is just another day. That is how it is with my friend Tommy. He makes his living crabbing on the river just like his father did before him. And the Brown Pelicans waiting by the boat launch can’t wait for Tommy to get going.

     The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology has this to say of the Brown Pelican. “The Brown Pelican is a comically elegant bird with an oversized bill, sinuous neck, and big, dark body. Squadrons glide above the surf along southern and western coasts, rising and falling in a graceful echo of the waves. They feed by plunge-diving from high up, using the force of impact to stun small fish before scooping them up.” They also feed by following Tommy’s crab boat and snatching the bait fish remains out of the traps as Tommy hauls them up to empty the dwindling catch of delicious blue crabs. They gather around the gunnel snapping their beaks and fighting to get at that small two inch opening in the crab trap with the swift finesse, deftness and dexterity of a hungry mob schooled in the art of chopsticks. One such fortunate fowl snatches the bait remains and flies off with a half dozen cohorts trying desperately to pluck it out of his beak pouch.

     As Tommy guns the boat’s motor and heads upriver a flight of four pelicans glide over the peaks of the wake in perfect formation. As he slows the boat to approach another trap they quickly swoop in and swarm the boat anxious to get whatever morsels remain. Whether desperate for food and hungry, or just opportune and wise birds who changed with the times, is a matter of opinion. For them it is just another day working on the river. And I love to watch them glide by. The Brown Pelican is the smallest of the eight species of pelicans. Even so, their wings can stretch over a span of 8 foot on an adult.  It is no wonder that I struggle with my lens composition to get them within my frame at times as I press the doohickey time and time again.

     Many a nation's lifeblood of commerce run on the rivers, streams, lakes, and oceans of this blue planet we call home. Water is precious to life and living. Just ask the pelicans. I love living on the river and watching them. Thank you Tommy for sharing a day with me.  Someday we all can hopefully live on the river of life. Can’t wait to see the birds there too. Until then..Be Blessed.

Meet my friend Tommy. He has invited me to ride along while he works on river crabbing like his father before him.

Meet the Brown Pelican anxiously waiting for Tommy to get started working on the river today too! 

It isn't the delicious blue crabs the Pelicans want, it is the bait fish in the crab traps!

Come on gang, it is time to go to work on the river! The Brown Pelican raises its mighty wings and lifts off!

Here they come!

They pass so close I struggle to keep them in the frame!

Too much Pelican, too little frame space..:(

After snatching the bait remains it is a food fight for remaining morsels. 

With a wing span that can exceed 8 foot this juvenile Brown  Pelican has no problem keeping up with the crab boat.

Gliding over the wake, a formation of four follow the boat. At times we had about 18 pelicans following us.

Soaring high!

Swooping low ... me fly by..look ma, no hands!

With wingtip control they eye the boat waiting to be the first to get the bait..

I hope the water is not too cold..a toe test for temperature!

Flaps up, landing gear down..

A perfect three wire landing...

Got any fish?

Thanks Tommy..see you next time…working on the river..Yeah!


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