Pelicans in Oil Spill Area Looking Good

By: Oscar Fann
By: Oscar Fann

Remember back in May when many birds, turtles and other animals were coated in oil from the ruptured Gulf well? Most of us were up in arms that such innocent creatures had to struggle not just to eat but to survive. However, many wildlife specialists were cautiously surprised that many more animals were not affected (my own unscientific opinion was that the dispersants, not initially used, helped with diluting the oil to the point that more natural influences such as sun, wind and warm seawater could then be quicker in breaking down the diluted oil).

Back to my earlier point. Dozens if not hundreds of pelicans had to be cleaned, calmed and rehabilitated before being allowed to return to the Gulf (most were initially relocated to Texas coastal areas).

Pelicans normally cruise the near shore waters looking for that next meal, then literally ‘divebomb’ into the water to grab the fish it sees (an enjoyable sight to watch).

If you go to our 4Warn Wx BLOG and click on to the story 'PELICANS LOVING OIL BOOMS' you will see a great photo of pelicans resting on an oil boom. What IRONY! Evidently, a lone pelican somehow learned that maybe that orange looking object (oil boom floatation) protruding from the water could be a resting place. Anyway, the pelican learns the boon will support its weight – then discovers that just sitting on the boon allows it to scan the waters a little easier and places it closer to its next dinner. Other pelicans quickly catch on, and now the buffet line starts to stretch. Notice even one pelican is looking the other way (less competition).

When living in south Florida around 1970 I went through the Everglades National Park (extreme southern Florida). There was a small bridge tourists walked over, and down stream of the bridge an alligator mainly floated motionless in the water. I watched the scene for a few minutes, then started laughing when I understood what was happening.

There was a larger body of water up stream of the tourist bridge, and under the bridge was a roughly constructed tiny dam, or spillway (really, just a couple of boards stacked horizontally across the stream where water slightly overflowed. Just up stream of the little spillway was a couple dozen garfish lying in wait for small fish that got caught in the tiny current toward the spillway. Easy pickins’ for the garfish. However, the garfish themselves would drift toward the spillway and would flick their tail fin at the last minute to move back up into position. Nevertheless, every few minutes one of the garfish would wait too late to recover, and it would slip over the spillway – and guess who was waiting for the new arrival? Talk about dinner coming to you!

In the next few months I think you will see a relatively quick recovery in the ecology of the portions of the Gulf of Mexico impacted by the oil spill. Some areas may take a few years to rebound, but generally the Gulf will bounce back faster than people think. Nature got its way by being resilient, and hopefully we’ve all learned valuable lessons. We humans will make other mistakes, but I hope not the same ones.

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