American White Pelicans aren’t rare, at least not in general. But they are rare in western Washington. So when I heard that there was a large group in Padilla Bay–part of Puget Sound near Anacortes, Washington–I wanted to find them.
I drove along E. March Point Road above the west side of Padilla Bay, looking for pelicans through the trees that line the road. After a short drive, I was in luck, and caught a glimpse of the large white birds through a gap in the trees. There was a pullout about 50 yards ahead (which turned out to be the only one on that stretch of road) and I parked there. I followed a steep path through the trees and dropped down to the beach. There I found approximately 30 pelicans feeding in the middle of the bay, directly out from my spot on the beach!
The birds were pretty far out, but with my 500mm lens and a 1.4x teleconverter to increase my reach to 700mm, I snapped some shots. More birds were resting on an island further out, and small groups of pelicans flew back and forth between the island and the bay.
While I was excited to get photos of the birds, their presence was a sobering reminder of rising temperatures. Previously the only place in Washington to find American White Pelicans was in the warm southeast corner of the state. For the last two years, pelicans have have also spent part of the summer in western Washington at Padilla bay and nearby Deer Lagoon on Whidbey Island.
It’s not a good sign that American White Pelicans are starting to find western Washington warm enough to be a summer hangout.