[va-bird] Brown Pelicans, color-banded or otherwise

  • From: Henry Armistead <74077.3176@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Virginia Birders <va-bird@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 22 Aug 2005 21:58:37 -0400

Virginia Birders: There is scant information here on Virginia birds except
for pelican banding statistics, some Monarch data, and a note to look out
for color-banded pelicans ... 

HOLLAND ISLAND, Dorchester County, MD.  Friday, August 19, 2005.  c. 7 A.M.
- 1 P.M.  Overcast, light rain starting c. 11 A.M. and becoming stronger,
temps in the 70s, winds SE 15, tide low becoming high then higher than
normal, full moon.  Delightful comfort level and the rain felt good.

My thanks to Dave Brinker and John Weske for providing some of the numbers
that follow.

9 of us went in 2 boats, launching from Crocheron, the objective to BAND
NESTLING BROWN PELICANS at this new colony on Holland Island's middle
segment.  252 chicks were banded.  100 of the chicks were in addition also
color-banded.  These are GOOD pelicans.  They are DORCHESTER PELICANS.  21
of them had blood samples taken for West Nile Virus studies, the samples to
be analyzed by the U.S.D.A. at Fort Collins, Colorado.  The same birds also
were the source of fecal samples for Avian Flu studies at Ohio State

35 Royal Terns were present at CROCHERON, most of them sitting on various
docks and pilings.  A yellow Warbler, no doubt a migrant, flew by the
launching ramp.  A couple of dozen martins were there.    
On one side of the pelican colony (SE) are 10 Double-crested Cormorant
nests, most of them with large young, in a blowover dead tree, probably an
American Hackberry.  The pelican colony got off to a late start and the
birds today were small, making them fairly easy to handle.  A few nests had
young too small to band, to wit:  5 nests with 2 young, 1 nest with 1
young, and 2 nests with 1 young and 1 egg.  I am certain I noted all such

BANDERS were Dave Brinker and John Weske assisted by Liz Carracino, Gavin
Brinker (Dave's son), myself, and 4 others, most of them associated with
the Oxford Laboratory.  The Brinkers and John spent the night of Aug. 18/19
at Rigby.

The SETTING of the pelican colony site had varied surroundings.  Most of
the nests were in a dense Baccharis halimifolia patch towards the center of
the island with a long but rather thick and even more dense stand of
Spartina cynosuroides just to the west of the Baccharis.  The east side of
the island has a nice, long beach.  The west and south sides are mostly
marshy tumps and banks.  The north end of the island is a little higher
with a few small trees and has the only remaining house on Holland Island,
a house that is the subject of a splendid, evocative photograph taken in
1953 by the great photographer A. Aubrey Bodine, that is on the back cover
of the new title "the Disappearing islands of the Chesapeake" by William B.
Cronin (Johns Hopkins U. Pr., 2005, 182pp., clothbound), an excellent book.
 This is the first time pelicans have nested at Holland.  The first county
record for pelicans was on July 4, 1996, when George Armistead and I saw 4
immatures flying over a sand bar at Pone (Bloodsworth Island), an otherwise
disastrous day due to outboard problems.    

COLOR BANDS.  A color-banded adult pelican was present, its band readable
thru binoculars. It had been banded on July 11, 2000, c. 2/3 mi. to the
East at the Spring Island colony, a colony that was Dorchester county's
first, present there for several years.  Be on the lookout for these
color-banded pelicans.  The color bands are on the left leg and are a
rather striking, bright, rather light blue with conspicuous alphanuemric
characters.  Of course, the blue can fade or become covered with mud or

A couple of times half-grown pelican chicks left the island to swim out to
where the adults were waiting for us to finish up.  The adults harrassed
the young birds to the extent that a boat rescue operation was mounted to
bring them back to the island.

A LITTLE LOCAL PELICAN HISTORY.  The advent of the Brown Pelican in
Dorchester county has been meteoric.  On July 4, 1992, George A. and I saw
the first ever seen in the county, 4 immatures at Pone (Bloodsworth)
Island.  On June 1, 2000, Marshall Iliff and I estimated 1,035, nearby in
the Spring Island area.  How is that for a dramatic change?!

ALSO SEEN on Holland Island:  2 Monarchs.  2 Diamondback Terrapin.  Many
Seaside Dragonlets.  1 Yellow-crowned Night heron.  A few each of Snowy &
Cattle egrets, Glossy Ibis, Little Blue & Tricolored herons.  1
oystercatcher.  1 Semipalmated Plover.  6 Barn Swallows,  4 Purple Martins.
 6 Red-winged Blackbirds.  We were busy and there was not much time for
birding.  The big heronry here seems to have mostly finished its business
for this year.    

There is an additional but small pelican colony in Worcester County, MD,
the first nesting in that county for 10 years or so.  It is near the MD/VA
line at Big Bay Marsh.  On July 20 there were16 nests, 9 with 3 eggs, and 7
with 2 eggs there according to Dave.  A banding trip is planned there for
September 10.  

Dave Brinker, John Weske and their assistants have banded 1,331 pelicans at
South Point Marsh (including Peach Orchard Point), Accomack Co., VA, this
summer, locations with an estimated total of 785 pairs, down a few hundred
from last year's record number of nests, which I think was c. 1,100. 
Dave's project over the years has banded 11,672 pelicans since 1987 in MD
and the greater South Point Marsh, VA, area.

SKIMMER ISLAND, Ocean City, MD.  I don't have the numbers with me at this
place of writing but I believe John Weske, Dave Brinker et al. banded c.
225 ROYAL TERN chicks here this year, the result of 2 banding forays.  In
any case this colony is much reduced in size.  In a later post I'll provide
the exact numbers.  This Royal Tern colony and the pelican one at Holland
Island I think are the northernmost in the world for these respective

"Rigby's Folly", Armistead property on Ferry Neck, Talbot County, MD, near
Bellevue.  Also on Aug. 19.  Most of these seen by Liz Armistead:  3
gnatcatchers, a Black-and-white Warbler, a Yellow Warbler, and 50 Canada

Rigby's Folly, Sat., Aug. 20.  Clear but very hazy, 78-88 degrees F., calm.
 14 Ospreys (in sight at one time).  26 Mourning Doves.  1 Pileated
Woodpecker (flew across the cove).  1 Yellow-billed Cuckoo.  86 Mute Swans.

Made 2 short boat trips, 4 & 6.5 mi. respectively, because I hadn't run the
boat for 6 weeks or so.  One has to wonder about the health of the Bay
when, a mile offshore, the big, bright white, feathery lure is invisible
less than a yard under the surface.  

Also:  10 Diamondback Terrapin frequenting the large bed of submerged
aquatic vegetation at the mouth of the cove.  This is very dense and the
plants are so long that even at high tide the bed seems almost like an
island.  Liz sees a 7" Five-lined Skink on the front porch.  The first
Cloudless Sulphur of the year.  Earlier in the week Anne A. saw an Opossum
on the driveway.  

Daughters Anne and Mary, Michael Solomonov and his friend Rami spent last
night here on their way to Nag's Head.  What with the rains the no-till soy
beans in our fields are doing much better than last year.  

Rigby's Folly, Sun., Aug. 21.  79-88 degrees, fair, with a refreshing,
breezy front coming through in the late morning, winds NW 10-15.  3 Cedar
Waxwings.  2 Snowy & 1 Great Egret.  An ad. Bald Eagle made a couple of
tries to snag fish at the surface of the cove before being divebombed by an
Osprey.  Once the eagle flipped over on its back while in flight and showed
its talons to the Osprey.  5 terrapin.  A few Silver-spoted Skippers,
whites, Pearlcrescents, unidentified anglewings and ladies, and Red-spotted
Purples but butterflies seem scarce this summer.  

Liz & I boated to Oxford to top off 'the Mudhen' (6.4 gallons).  Lots of
schools of small Menhaden at the mouth of the Tred Avon.  Hardly any birds,
a few Laughing Gulls and Forster's Terns plus a Common Tern on the rocks at
the Oxford Yacht Club.    

Good 3-day period for Monarchs.  They're on the move.  19 today, 13
yesterday, plus the 2 aforementioned ones at Holland I. on Fri. - more than
I sometimes see at the peak of their migration here.  In fact at the
Hawkwatch at Kiptopeke State Park, VA, where Monarchs are counted also, in
2004 there were only 5 days with 19 or more (fide Robert L. Anderson). 
Lots of bluets (sp?), a damselfly, around the dock.  Goldenrod is blooming.

Best to all.-Harry Armistead, 523 E. Durham St., Philadelphia, PA
19119-1225.  215-248-4120.  
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  • » [va-bird] Brown Pelicans, color-banded or otherwise