A Salute to the White Pelicans

Submitted by Art and Barb Straub

Coachlight Pond was unusually quiet and serene the morning of April 3rd. No red-winged blackbirds “Chereed,” courting frogs were totally silent, migrating hooded and common mergansers had eaten breakfast and sped on their way north, muffled auto noises from nearby Highway #169 could be heard, but traffic was light and not bothersome to the waterfowl quietly gathered on pond number two south. Sylvia and Sylvan Trumpeter swans took turns raising the height of a muskrat house in centrally located dead cattails, working like ditch-diggers, their skilled beaks pulling mud, grass and reeds atop the growing mass upon which they intended to lay eggs and raise their family. Irate but silent, famed Canada geese pair Ilsa and Izzy glowered and seethed at having lost their prime nesting spot acquired years previous.

Suddenly, such a vehement clamor and hissing sounded from the serene heavens as to shiver one’s backbone. A second pair of Canadians appeared from the skuddy gray , plopped themselves down in front of Izzie and verbally harassed the surprised male goose. Izzie was startled to his webbed feet, as unexpectantly, the intruding male physically attacked him. Feathers and wings of the opponents flew, Izzie becoming outraged, a left wing here, a right wing there, here a beak, there a neck, and the skirmish ended as suddenly as it had begun, the opponent and his mate winging out of the pond as quickly as they had come. The action ceased, the two trumpeters calmly resumed their nest building, while Izzy and Ilsa unhappily scudded to another section of the algae covered watercourse.

Faithful Frances, the dependable Ford Focus, had observed the altercation without a blink of her headlights, and was anxious to continue on her mission, that being a birthday surprise. Green Isle’s Joe Luskey (Judy) a frequent contributor to this site, was about to have a special birthday, with Frances anxious to beep out a “Happy” or two. Another of her goals was to come upon an eastern meadowlark to lift the spirits of her passengers, none of that species having been observed thus far in the spring of 2020.

Upon arriving at the Luskey home in rural Jessenland Township, passing flocks of predominantly male wild turkeys, migrating northern ducks, a plethora of various species of blackbirds, Frances was about to beep out her version of the traditional birthday song to Joe and Judy, (from the required twenty feet distance,) when above the Ford’s chassis, soaring, circling, swarming, ever-rising, a flock of white pelicans appeared. Breathtakingly awesome, they disappeared into the ominous sky. The precious moment was over, the birthday song sung, Frances stunned. With a beep of her horn, she was on her way, and saw no further pelicans that day.

No big deal you say? Then, a story. In ancient times, in the Mediterranean sea area, long before the time of Christ, the pelican was revered. The bird symbolized social responsibility, teamwork, charity, generosity, friendliness. Legend had it that in times of famine the female pelican would pull flesh from its own breast and feed its young, in order to keep them alive. In the Christian era, the bird came to symbolize love, sacrifice, new life, diving headfirst into troubles one might encounter. In real life, pelicans are social, work together for the common good, assisting one another in gathering food, group in masses for protection. (Does this sound like a homily for our world’s major crises today?)

Craving release from our enclave on Sunday, April 5th, Frances and her passengers covered 125 miles searching for pelicans in flight. Lakes Titloe, Silver, Washington, Lexington, Scotch, German, Jefferson, Emily, the Minnesota River Valley plus every large pond along the way yielded no pelicans soaring nor swimming. However, great lessons re-learned for this week’s journey.