Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Big White Fun

pelican1

Not long after friends told us American White Pelicans had been gathering on Lake Wisconsin for the past few days, Dad and I made the half-hour drive to Okee. I brought a camera: I've always been a big fan of pelicans.

The winding two-lane county highway that afforded a view of the flock had very little shoulder on which to pull off, and we jockeyed for the best and closest vantage point for photos. This proved difficult. The pelicans were holding an invitation-only party far out of reach of my lens, and it seemed we weren't invited. Still, I was determined.

We pulled in to a farm. A train track on elevated ground just beyond the pasture seemed a perfect place to climb up and snap some shots. First, I had to cross that field. I started out, camera swinging from my neck; a lone Holstein curiously trotting along the fence of her enclosure as I picked my way across the low, lumpy ground. The wind nipped my cheeks and my short leather boots started to sink a little. I looked over at the cow, noting her legs were muddy to the knee, each of her steps making a suction-y sound. The ground on my side was becoming increasingly soft, and I took wide steps from one grassy knob to another, hoping they would carry me over any sogginess in the short distance I had left. I kept my eyes focused ahead. I was almost there.

That's when things changed. With the next step, my left foot sank down out of sight and I faltered a bit, the camera almost brushing the ground. As I shifted my weight, my leg sank further and I could feel the cold water flowing into my boot and saturating my jeans. I gasped, pulled my leg out with some effort, and turned. The cow stared.  As I made my retreat, I made a mental note: don't try to cross a marsh on foot, even if it doesn't really look like a marsh.

  pelican2

Arriving back at the car, I opened the door, the sounds of the Metropolitan Opera wafting out. My dad looked up, gave me the once-over, smiled at my pant leg soaked up past the knee, and asked, "Did you get any pictures?"

The next day, Dad and I returned to Okee. Instead of packing waders, I brought my spotting scope and digiscoped these photos of one of the largest birds in North America: the beautiful, majestic American White Pelican.

Nina Cheney
Eagle Optics Staff
Binoculars: Bring them. See what they bring you.

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