Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pyramid Lake: pouched fishermen

The American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) roosts on sandbars and small islands [1]. Such an island is Anaho Island, located south of the tufa pyramid of Pyramid Lake in northwest Nevada. This island features a 600-foot-tall rock off the lower east side of the lake [2]. It is a National Wildlife Refuge, protecting the nesting grounds for shorebirds including the white pelican.

Anaho Island is visible from most places around Pyramid Lake such as the Popcorn Rock site, from where a group of lake visitors (see picture) was trying to zoom in on birds and the island on New Year's Eve 2011. The Popcorn Rock viewing area is the place of choice to learn about white pelicans: an interpretive panel informs about the pouched fishermen. The enormous orange pouched bill, orange-red legs and black wing tips make it easy to recognize these fish-eating waterbirds. The panel explains that Anaho Island supports the largest American White Pelican nesting colony in the western United States, with as many as 20,000 birds in some years. The island is a nesting habitat free from predators and human disturbance.   

The pelicans typically spend the winter in southern California and Mexico. According to the panel, they begin to arrive at Pyramid Lake in early March. New Year's Eve is not the time for pelican watching at Pyramid Lake, although this winter's weather pattern does not seem very different from that of mid-March and early spring.

[1] David Allen Sibley: The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2003; page 47.
[2] Deke Castleman: Nevada.Compass American Guides, Inc., Oakland, California, 2000; page 226.

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