October 14, 2002
Fall Migration At The Wilderness Cathedral
What a grand surprise to look up into the skies over the Wilderness Cathedral and see 39 Pelicans soaring and gliding. It was September 23, which seemed a little early for Pelicans to come down from the north but since the Hummingbirds had been arriving in little swarms, it was obvious that Mother Nature was signaling her children that it was time to head south for the Winter.
On August 24th, I had seen as many as 20 Mississippi Kites soaring about on my way to the Cathedral and on September 2nd, I thought I saw another hawk migration but upon closer examination I saw a kindergarten class of 23 immature white ibises being led by their adult teacher. The teacher was showing the babies the art of gliding and soaring above the Cathedral.
September 3, brought another surprise. We had been talking with an agent of The Seventh Day Adventists of Texas about The Wilderness Cathedral, and creation ethics, and were looking toward the Cathedral from my parent's deck overlooking the water. In addition to numerous Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, and countless Terns, a flock of Pelicans flew over, followed by a gorgeous adult Bald Eagle. This was the first Eagle spotted in some time, and as the Eagle is a messenger of God who brings glad tidings, I suspect that it was rejoicing at the unity of Adventist and Ethician environmental ethics.
For the next month, there was little unusual in the comings and goings of our bird friends. Then on October 12, a little cool front brought with it an amazing influx of birds from the North. We took the boat out to monitor the shores of the Cathedral and for some reason I felt compelled to travel up river. The skies were clear and the air crisp. Soon we began to see more and more Snowy and Great Egrets by the hundreds, if not thousands. Flocks of Cormorants flew over the boat and in the part of the lake called "The Jungle", every one of the hundreds of floating logs was inhabited by phalanxes of terns and more terns. Perhaps 10,000 terns would not be an exaggeration.
Further ahead we thought we saw a new subdivision on the horizon. The houses appeared like an alabaster village, or a pure white city in Andalusia. When we arrived at the spot, we were greeted by thousands of
beautiful White Pelicans. The first flock consisted of at least 2,500 birds!!! As we moved up river, flock after flock appeared on the horizon where they were resting near the water's edge. Each group consisted of well in excess of a thousand birds. Then as we neared the Trinity River bridge at Riverside two huge waves of Pelicans arrived from the North and flew to meet their friends. A conservative estimate of the total number of Pelicans would be 10,000+!!!
The next day, my parents wished to see the Pelicans, so we decided to take the boat out before Church services at the Cathedral. We first went to the Marina to gas up. I looked up into the sky above the Cathedral and could hardly believe my eyes. A beautiful pink bird was soaring above. I grabbed the binoculars to determine what it was. Its spoon-like bill revealed its identity-a Roseate Spoonbill!!!
The day before I was hoping to see an eagle but did not really expect to see one for some reason. Today however, I had a premonition that an eagle would appear. Little did I dream that 5 eagles would make their appearance!!!
After leaving the Marina we headed around the Cathedral shores and at exactly the spot where I had seen the first eagle in my life, two eagles were doing aerial acrobatics or "Eagle Ballet". I had seen adult eagles during courtship displays behaving in this fashion but these were two juveniles, and it was Fall. They careened toward Zwicky Creek and we followed them, observing them for at least 20 minutes as they displayed their talents. A third eagle came up to watch but did not participate in the sport. While watching the eagles, we noticed a huge black raft on the water of Zwicky Bay. The raft consisted of at least 1,000 cormorants doing their synchronized swimming exercises. As we approached they swooped up from the water in unison in a most amazing display of aerial skills, as if the "Blue Angels" formation consisted of over a thousand jets.
We left the eagles for the place of the pelicans and when we arrived a thousand of more flew toward another group of their friends further North but at least another thousand remained to be photographed. Amongst the pelicans were various species of shore birds that I was not able to identify. As the waves were rather high and the skies overcast, we were the only boat on the lake that day which made the experience all the better.
Upon our return to my parent's house we went out on the deck to observe the vultures, terns, hummingbirds, sandpipers and other species, when two eagles flew directly over the house toward the Cathedral. A minute
or so later a third eagle flew over and then the two juvenile acrobats began to display their talents. Their fun was broken up by a crow that took great pleasure in attacking one of the eagles, chasing it and pecking at its tail feathers. Five eagles in five minutes is pretty wonderful and I hope is a sign of good tidings for all.
From the Holy Trinity Wilderness Cathedral
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