A Wonderful, Whacky Pelican… Puerto Vallarta

I’ve spent a lot of time watching and photographing pelicans. Their committee-put-together look makes them a favorite of mine. But I have never seen one do this. It delighted me. I think it was trying to scare up a fish. The majority of brown pelicans make their living by diving from the air for dinner. This fellow may have been a bit young and small for the big time.

The Rio Cuale sits in the heart of Puerto Vallarta. It’s a delightful place with a long island in the middle (Isla Cuale) that includes good restaurants, fun shops, and some very interesting art. The island got its start in the 1960s as an airstrip for rich Hollywood types such as Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and John Huston. 

My favorite thing about the Rio Cuale, however, is the rich wildlife it supports including a variety of water birds and giant iguanas. Bird life includes pelicans, cormorants, herons, egrets and more. On my recent visit I was particularly taken by the young fellow featured above and a snowy egret.

Here is the young brown pelican behaving more or less like I am used to seeing brown pelicans behave.
I am not sure what the youngster is up to here. Scratching an itch? Spreading oil?
Its action here is clear. It’s preening. The pelican and other water fowl have an oil gland near their tail that they use for oiling their body to make feathers more waterproof.
Here it is again, apparently trying to scare up another fish.
And a final shot of our young friend. We speculated that maybe it was a little young for the normal brown pelican approach to fishing.
A few hundred feet away, brown pelicans were fishing in the more traditional way.
I caught this orgy of Pelican fishing in Puerto Vallarta in 2016. The insane dive on the right is one of the things I love about pelicans.
I must say that this snowy egret on the Rio Cuale provided a great photo-op as well.
Here’s the snowy egret in a more traditional pose.

The River Cafe is a short way up the Isla Cuale from where we found the pelican and the snowy egret. We like it for its tasty, well-presented food. But we also like it because you can almost always find iguanas hanging out in the trees and on the ground next to the river. This year we spotted a very green one…

It was so green, it almost disappeared among the leaves. The large flap of skin hanging down from the iguana’s chin is called a dewlap. No self-respecting Iguana would be without one. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

We’ve had numerous encounters with iguanas over the years in Puerto Vallarta. But none matched the time when one came to visit us in our villa. I did a post on our welcome visitor, but just for fun, I decided to put up a few photos on him again.

It all started out with a stranger staring in our window at us. Naturally we had to see who had come to visit.
Outside, we found this large iguana staring at his reflection in the window. There were two possibilities: One he had found the love of his life. Or, two, he had discovered a large rival impinging on his territory. Iguanas can be quite territorial.
On closer inspection, our visitor appeared to be quite handsome. I imagine he was a heart throb.
His claws appeared a bit on the scary side. I, for one, wouldn’t want to get on his bad side.
I looked him in the eye, wondering what a lady iguana would see in him. I call this photo The Eye of the Iguana after the Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr movie “The Night of the Iguana.” The movie, directed by John Huston, was filmed in Puerto Vallarta giving the then small fishing village a kickstart to becoming a mega-tourist attraction.
Of course we had to invite Senior Iguana in for a visit. His tail is still outside. He was a big fellow.
He wandered around looking for his love/rival and then finally settled down on the floor like a dog. I couldn’t help but think he would make a great burglar deterrent! After a while, he stood up, checked our villa one more time and then wandered back outside. Next post I will feature a chalk art festival and several murals in Puerto Vallarta. After that, it’s hitting the PCT again, hiking south from Carson Pass.

What a Wonderful Bird Is the Pelican… A Puerto Vallarta Feeding Frenzy

Pelican hist water upside down in Puerto Vallarta. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A Brown Pelican executes an amazing upside down dive to catch fish in Puerto Vallarta as three other pelicans join in the feeding frenzy.

 “What a wonderful bird is the pelican, whose bill will hold more than his belican.” Dixon Merritt

I am enamored with pelicans. These large, gregarious birds that appear to have been created by a committee, skim over the ocean in graceful lines, fly in V formations to distant locations, and crash into the ocean with abandon to catch fish.  Most of my pelican viewing has taken place on the coast of California and Oregon but I have also enjoyed their antics in Florida and the Mediterranean.

California Brown Pelican posed for flight. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A Brown Pelican stands on its toes and prepares for flight in California. I called this photo flight-line.

California Brown Pelicans in flight. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Shortly afterwards, I caught this photo of the pelicans, along with seagulls in flight.

Petra the pelican of Mykonos. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

We found this Great White Pelican named Petros holding court on the Greek Island of Mykonos last year on our trip through the Mediterranean.

Petra the Pelican of Mykonos. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Petros the Pelican of Mykonos gives me the eye. “You wouldn’t happen to have a fish would you?”

Over the past three weeks I have been enjoying pelicans in Mexico. Peggy and I were particularly lucky to find a large flock of them involved in a feeding frenzy right next to Puerto Vallarta’s boardwalk, the Malecon. I’ve often watched pelicans make their unique dives from a distance; this was up close and personal– as I hope our photos demonstrate. I was also able to videotape them and captured 15 plus dives in a few seconds. The action was wild!

Pelican drains water from bill in Puerto Vallarta. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

One pelican seems to float in open-billed-amazement as two other pelicans crash into the ocean. Actually pelicans have to drain the water out of their mouths before swallowing their catch, which is what this fellow is doing.

Pelican shows throat pouch in Puerto Vallarta. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Check out the size of the Brown Pelican throat pouch here.

Pelicans prepare to dive in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Hovering in flight, pelicans prepare to dive. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.) The terns, BTW, are hoping to participate in the feast and will happily steal fish from the pelicans.

Brown Pelican in Puerto Vallarta hovers above the water in search of fish. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Preparing for a high dive…

Brown Pelican takes flight off of Banderas Bay in Puerto Vallarta. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Brown Pelican takes off from water.

Brown Pelican appears to walk on water in Puerto Vallarta.

And this guy appears to be walking on water. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Brown Pelican dives toward the water of Banderas Bay in Puerto Vallarta.

A Brown Pelican plunges toward the water. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.) Note the pouch filled with water on the lower right.

Pelican diving for fish in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Plunging into the water. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Brown Pelicans demonstrate different aspects of fishing in Banderas Bay, Puerto Vallarta. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A small portion of the flock, some 17 pelicans, demonstrate various aspects of fishing.

Pelican feeding frenzy in Puerto Vallarta.

Hard to tell who is doing what, here. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.) Liked the graceful tern on the left.

Pelicans feeding in Banderas Bay, Puerto Vallarta Mexico.

Or here. But I really liked the wing action. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Now it is time to put all of the action together in a brief video…

Pelican caught in sunset glow at Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A pelican flies toward its nest at the end of the day.

NEXT BLOG: Having featured the Brown Pelicans of Puerto Vallarta, I’ll move on to feature the Green Iguanas.