SUNDAY MORNING PELICANS

Tony King, Las Cuevas, Belize, Sunday 28th January 1996

 

This morning was a most beautiful Sunday morning, atop an observation tower looking down over the mist-shrouded jungle of Belize. In all directions as far as the eye could see it was an ocean of white, with occasional islands of hill-top trees. 

The chorus of chachalacas, toucans, tinamous, trogans, parrots, guans and jays, interspersed with the double rifle-shot of a woodpecker, seemed to be as much responsible for the slow lifting of the clouds as the hazy sun rising in the east. In the valley below, the immense sound of a giant tree finding the heavy cloud just a little too much to bear, crashing to the ground in a final resounding echo of glory. 

And then, from nowhere, silent and slow, high above the rising clouds but still sihouetted against the white sky, a pair of pelicans passed by as if on a regular Sunday morning excursion. I stood transfixed for a second, or more, bemused, confused, where's the camera, where's the binoculars, where's the lens cap, where am I, pelicans? Huge, unmistakable, pelicans. 

Fifty miles to the Carribean Sea, and that to the east, these two were coming from the north and heading south-south-east. Bizarre. 

I strained my eyes to see into the thick white horizon, but they had been engulfed, and not much chance of them circling around to give me a second view. The moment had passed, slowly, gracefully, but in just a few seconds. Had they been brown, the common resident found all along the coast, or had they been white, the rare American migrant? They had not given the impression of whiteness, but such is the nature of a silhouette. All I was sure of was that they had been pelicans, there had been two of them, they had been a long way from the sea, and that this was undoubtedly a first record for the Chiquibul Forest. Now I need someone to explain the rest. 

Please...