Posted by: dharmabeachbum | February 1, 2014

Watching brown pelicans never gets old

There’s something ancient about a brown pelican’s appearance. Those long bills. The pouch. Its grayish-brown plummage. Some even have rust-colored streaks in their tails. It never gets old watching them glide along the coast.

"Sorry buddy. I didn't bring any fish with me today. I'll try to remember tomorrow."

“Sorry buddy. I didn’t bring any fish with me today. I’ll try to remember tomorrow.”

Does anyone else think of pterodactyls upon seeing brown pelicans flying over the ocean or around tops of buildings or did I just spend too much time watching “The Flintstones” when I was young? Youngish. Okay, I’d watch it right now just for the Stone Age fix.

“Wilma! Does that pterodactyl look like a brown pelican to you?” Fred never said that. He was too busy driving Wilma nuts with his Ralph Kramden-like antics. Betty certainly didn’t think much of him. Barney, on the other hand, worshipped the gravel he walked on. “Gee, Fred. Want me to take some sandpaper to those calluses before we go bowling?”

While locals may take pelicans for granted as they soar overhead in familiar v-formations, many tourists don’t consider their stays here complete until they’ve seen a flock or two or six gliding out over the Atlantic Ocean.

One doesn’t have to travel too far along the Grand Strand without being reminded of their association with this working-class paradise. Their images can be found on billboards, mailboxes and marquees. Our minor league baseball team’s nickname has long been the Pelicans. Even the blue trash bins in Myrtle Beach are called pelicans.

I’ve been dying to write about them, going through four digital cameras in the last 20 months while trying to get a decent shot of one flying overhead. Yeah, I said “four.” Putting a digital camera in my hands is like handing a dish to Mr. MaGoo. “By George, I thought I had a good grip on it. Gee willikers!”

It’s been an exasperating quest to say the least. If I’d saved every photo I’ve taken of modern-day pterodactyls that ended up looking like dots in the sky, my computer would be out of memory with a DVD full of extras to boot.

There were times I got tired of the pursuit, settling for watching pelicans from the shore as they circle, pause, fold their wings and plunge into the sea amidst a school of menhaden.

But miracles happen. One day the seas parted. The planets aligned. Justin Bieber wasn’t mentioned in the “news.” A pelican landed 50 yards from me as I sat at the base of the dunes vegetating with the sea oats. Last week the Grand Strand was granted a one-day reprieve from a stretch of vicious weather when the pelican swooped in from the north. “Yabba dabba doo!”

With the dexterity of a woolly mammoth, I managed to plod my way near enough to it to get a decent shot before it flew away. My pain eased, I could go back to concentrating on finding old rocks.

Speaking of mammoths. I can’t wait till scientists clone them. I need a vacuum cleaner like the Flintstones and Rubbles had. Woolly and durable. I’m good at breaking vacuum cleaners, too.

(Bum’s rap: The next post will be Wednesday. Thanks for reading.)



  1. Thanks Rob, lots of good memories here. And, yes, we stone age people your generation call “parents”, referred to pelicans as pterodactyl lookalikes. Fun article.

    • Thanks. I wasn’t sure where I really picked up on that. I don’t remember us talking about that. This poor one had to have been sick. I saw it the next day, too. Didn’t have a cell phone on me to call the state park.

  2. Great post! I love pelicans, and at the lake nearby I often see white ones gliding along in a set of three…slowly gliding…waiting for their prey to appear.

    • They really are so cool to watch, Lorrie. I forgot to mention it but it’s cool to watch them glide just over the ocean and use the waves energy. Thanks as always for visiting and keep taking those great photographs. I really enjoy them and the words you use with them. Too cool.

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