Shuswap Lake becomes important layover for flight of pelicans

A group of American White Pelicans sits on a sandbar near the mouth of the Salmon River and preens in July 2020. (Glynne Green photo)A group of American White Pelicans sits on a sandbar near the mouth of the Salmon River and preens in July 2020. (Glynne Green photo)
A single American White Pelican sits just west of Peter Jannink Nature Park in Salmon Arm in July 2020. (Glynne Green photo)A single American White Pelican sits just west of Peter Jannink Nature Park in Salmon Arm in July 2020. (Glynne Green photo)
The bump visible on the bills of these American White Pelicans swimming near the mouth of the Salmon River in Shuswap Lake indicates their breeding maturity. (Glynne Green photo)The bump visible on the bills of these American White Pelicans swimming near the mouth of the Salmon River in Shuswap Lake indicates their breeding maturity. (Glynne Green photo)
American White Pelicans feed together near the mouth of the Salmon River in Shuswap Lake. (Glynne Green photo)American White Pelicans feed together near the mouth of the Salmon River in Shuswap Lake. (Glynne Green photo)
These American White Pelicans are actively and enthusiastically feeding on what appears to be a school of fish near the mouth of the Salmon River in Shuswap Lake. (Glynne Green photo)These American White Pelicans are actively and enthusiastically feeding on what appears to be a school of fish near the mouth of the Salmon River in Shuswap Lake. (Glynne Green photo)
Preening and resting is the order of the day for a group of American White Pelicans sitting on a sandbar near the mouth of the Salmon River in July 2020. (Glynne Green photo)Preening and resting is the order of the day for a group of American White Pelicans sitting on a sandbar near the mouth of the Salmon River in July 2020. (Glynne Green photo)

Shuswap Lake’s popularity as a layover on the flight path of pelicans appears to be growing.

A couple of avid birdwatchers say the number of American White Pelicans stopping in Salmon Arm Bay on the way to and from their nesting ground near Williams Lake has increased this year.

“I’ve seen more this year than the past few years,” said Glynne Green, who loves to watch and photograph the snowy white birds with their bright orange bills.

He said they don’t all move together but move in bunches.

A few weeks ago he estimates he saw anywhere from 30 to 50 near the mouth of the Salmon River.

They like to dine on the coarse fish, he said, probably because they’re easy to catch.

The coarse fish aren’t native to the area. He said they were introduced from the Okanagan and he surmises they’re a reason the pelicans come to the lake.

Photos of pelicans aren’t always easy to get. Green said they’re a private bird and, as a rule, they won’t let you get near.

“They watch pretty closely and they’re fairly wary.”

Green speaks with enthusiasm about their beauty and uniqueness.

Close up, he says they look as big as a swan.

He notes that they grow a lump on their bill which indicates their breeding maturity. Once they’re through breeding, it falls off.

“They’re gorgeous flyers to watch,” he says. “The mating rituals, the males will do circles and loops. If you see a big flock coming in, it almost looks like a roller coaster… They fly real close to each other.”

Sometimes when the pelicans fish, they fish cooperatively. He says they will stand in a big circle in the shallows and corral the fish, slowly moving in to make the circle smaller.

Green said he’s been seeing pelicans in Shuswap Lake since he started birdwatching about 15 years ago.

He said one of the best places to see them is from Peter Jannink Nature Park, if you look west towards the mouth of the river. Sometimes they can be seen near Christmas Island.

Read more: Pelicans spotted in Peachland

Read more: ‘Peli’ the pelican, found injured in Oliver, reunited with flock after lengthy rehab

Ed McDonald, president of the Shuswap Naturalist Club, also admires the birds.

The last week of August he saw about 60.

“Today, another 30 out by the mouth of the river,” he said on Sept. 3.

He agrees with Green that in Shuswap Lake the number of pelicans, which are listed as an endangered species in B.C., seems to be increasing.

McDonald said in April and early May they’re on their way to Stum Lake, which is within White Pelican Provincial Park, west of Williams Lake, their only nesting area in B.C. He said the lake has no fish, but they will carry them 60 kilometres back to the nesting area.

The pelicans also stop at Shuswap Lake on their way back to California where they spend the rest of the year. He said there are more nesting areas in Alberta and Saskatchewan.

McDonald also comments on what a unique bird they are to watch. He said they have a wing-span of 109 inches so they’re amazing gliders. By comparison, an eagle’s wingspan is usually about 80 inches.

He estimates the first time he saw a pelican in Salmon Arm Bay was probably in the mid ’90s.

“Most make their way on the other side of the Rockies. It’s unique we have this one group that comes through. It’s exciting. They’re well monitored and well protected.”


marthawickett@saobserver.net
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

BirdwatchingSalmon Arm

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vernon Council voted in favour of implementing a 500-metre buffer between all new cannabis stores in the city at its meeting Monday, Oct. 26, 2020. (Black Press files)
Two cannabis shops vie for last downtown Vernon spots

Applications for stores within 240m of each other and a third retailer up for consideration

Vernon’s Ellison Provincial Park has everything the outdoor enthusiast could wish for. (Ribbons of Green photo)
Upgrades trail in for Okanagan campgrounds

Bear Creek and Ellison improvements underway

‘Arthur’ describes the in-person drop-off of a ‘notice of trespass and personal liability’ to Vernon’s City Hall in a video on the group’s website.
Mysterious group serves notice to Okanagan mayors, demanding end to ‘unlawful’ COVID rules

26-page letter sent by ‘Sovereign Republic of British Columbia’

(File photo)
Fraud alert issued by Vernon police

Busy start to year with more than 30 frauds reported already

(Black Press file photo)
Lumby curling club needs $17K to continue season amid COVID-19

The village agreed to provide half of the requested funds, RDNO may provide the other half

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

The Oliver Fire Department’s “new” truck was built with the help of various local companies. It was completed Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. (Oliver Fire Dept. / Facebook)
It takes a town to build a truck: The Oliver Fire Department gets creative

Ingenuity and local connections played an important role in the upgrading fire truck

Surrey provincial court. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
New COVID-19 protocols set for provincial courthouses

The new rules were issued on Jan. 21, and took effect immediately

Police in Vancouver looking for male suspect who allegedly spat and attacked a store manager for not wearing a mask, at 7-Eleven near Alma Street and West 10th Avenue just before noon on Dec. 17, 2020. (Vancouver police handout)
VIDEO: Man spits on 7-Eleven manager over mask rule, sparking Vancouver police probe

‘Unfortunately, the store manager sustained a cut to his head during the assault’

The Vancouver-based SAR team successfully rescued two lost snowshoers off of the west side of Tim Jones Peak in the early morning of Monday, Jan. 19. (North Shore Rescue photo)
B.C.’s busiest SAR team raises alarm after 2021 begins with fatality, multiple rescues

‘People beyond ski resort areas of Seymour, Grouse, and Cypress go without cell reception,’ SAR warns

Clint George collaborated with Les Louis to create the Pelmewash Parkway Indigenous sculptures in Lake Country. (Video still)
First Indigenous territory recognition made in Lake Country

Council makes historic move after Syilx artists create parkway sculptures

Police are searching for an alleged sex offender, Nicole Edwards, who they say has not returned to her Vancouver halfway house. (Police handout)
Police hunt for woman charged in ‘horrific’ assault who failed to return to Surrey halfway house

Call 911 immediately if you see alleged sex offender Nicole Edwards, police say

Most Read