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By Joseph Dempsey pelican

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The brown pelican won't win any up close and personal beauty contests — well, unless you are another pelican. He looks a tad unwieldy on dry land. Probably nature's way of surreptitiously concealing some virtuous attributes.

This bird is whiling away a balmy spring afternoon catching some rays on a drawbridge approach at Dulac, Louisiana. Another 20 miles or so south, and Louisiana turns to marshy mush. A few miles later, it turns into the Gulf of Mexico.

The pelican's beak is longer than his head and neck combined. The front of his body seems to have come to a screeching halt while his backside caught up with the rest, resulting in a decidedly un-svelte appearance. In the air, the visual goofiness continues. He looks like a pair of giant wings connected in the middle by a funny shaped ball of bird meat and feathers.

My friends out there in radioland, after that unseemly introduction, it is safe to extol the brown pelican as prima facie evidence that looks can indeed be entirely deceiving. In the air and over water, the environment that the master planner had in mind for the brown pelican, Mr. Proboscis is master of all he sees.

He flits along, skimming the water with reckless abandon. Then he goes into a steep climb, executes a perfect Immelman, and immediately veers into a screaming dive. At the precise and perfect moment, he tucks in his wings and plunges headfirst into the water, at which time his pellicle (the lower part of his beak) distends to somewhere between volleyball and basketball proportions. He scoops up lunch, breaks out of the water, takes wing, and starts looking for dessert. (Perhaps it is those screeching halts that give rise to his body lines). If you are lucky, you may observe him and a few of his neighbors doing some formation flying that would embarrass the Air Force.

Observing this critter in his native element gives one pause to think about beauty in function. About doing what one does and doing it well. And about not giving a tinker's damn about what the rest of the world thinks.

Louisianans hold the Brown Pelican in such high regard they have named him their state bird. Those of us from a few hours north who habitually visit the state take issue with that designation. We believe, with all due apologies for our friends to the south and the magnificent brown pelican, that the state bird of Louisiana is the ubiquitous mosquito.

N O T E S:  
Nikon D200 / AF VR-Nikkor 80-400mm f4.5-5.6 ED D / Hand-held / Post processed with Photoshop CS3 Extended and Genuine Fractals Print Pro

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