As I often do on business trips to new or fun places, I extended a late April UK trip to give a free day in London so I could walk the city and take a few photographs – or maybe more than a few. As it is, I took so many that I’ve been struggling to decide which ones to share, which may explain why I’ve waited four months to post them. I saw many of the expected haunts – Big Ben, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park, which I’ll share in a future blog. But, let me start with what surprised me the most – white pelicans in St. James Park.
For those in the know (not I), this is not much of surprise, as the first pelican to “grace the Royal Parks was a gift from the Russian Ambassador to King Charles II in 1664,” 350 years ago. You can visit the Royal Parks website for more official details. For now, though, I’ll relate what I heard from the park attendant.
When asked why the pelicans stay in the park, he said they all had their wings clipped. All of them, except one. That one was a gift from a woman who made the donation on the condition that the wings not be clipped. That pelican has remained among the flock for some number of years but, at least in its early years, it was know to fly away during the day. No one knew where for quite some time, until some enterprising soul spied it flying over Scotland Yard and thought to let someone at the park know that amazing fact. I had visions of this great white bird, with its 8-foot (250 cm) or larger wingspan flying miles away on a great journey every day. Then, when I returned home, I learned that Scotland Yard was only a half-mile drive from the park. As the crow flies, or should I say as the pelican flies, the distance is only a quarter mile. The bird was not so ambitious as I thought.
Pelicans exude personality. They may look graceful or ungainly, comical or sinister (as at left). During my visit, the pelicans came quite close to the path, enabling me to catch some of those expressions that I’ve added to my Birds gallery.
I was fortunate to be with the birds for a half hour, yet I didn’t get the ultimate close-up experience of sharing a park bench with one of them. That does happen, though, as you can see in this 2011 BBC article that shows pelican photos taken by photographer Stephen McLaren. The birds seem to fit right in, as if they were just one of us – sort of…