Pelican Island and Other Wonders of a Blustery Saturday

A winter storm warning put a crimp in our plans for a long spring hike this past Saturday. Instead, we checked out the weather, saw the storm heading our way from the northwest and decided to head southeast and see if we could outrun it.

Surprisingly, our plan worked.  We ended up at the Wildlife Management Area at the southern end of Canyon Ferry Lake under blue skies.    Plenty of wind, but no snow.


We watched the front heading our way,  but it hung over the mountains long enough for us to find a calm little cove that was sheltering hundreds of white pelicans.

At first we saw a few determinedly flying into the wind.



More and more passed us, until we found them hanging out on a couple of islands in the sheltered cove.  There were hundreds of them.


They’d take off, land, take off again, circle around, and land again.  Sometime they seemed to group together for an important discussion, and then take off again.






They were gorgeous.

We wandered back along an irrigation ditch, marveling at the fact that the weather hadn’t caught us yet,


and spooked a trio of sandhill cranes, who took off into the wind, chattering their alarm.



The discoveries didn’t end there.  We decided to explore Avalanche Gulch on the way home, and on the way in spied a large herd of elk in a stubble field.  Most were resting, but there were plenty of sentries keeping a keen lookout.


Then, to top it off, a group of mountain goats was grazing on the hillside at the mouth of the canyon!




Not too shabby.

About westerner54

Hello. I'm Cindy, and I love to hike, bike and explore the outdoors - particularly the western U.S.
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25 Responses to Pelican Island and Other Wonders of a Blustery Saturday

  1. Jet Eliot says:

    Wow, what a day of abundant wildlife sightings for you! Thanks so much for the photos and post, I enjoyed the hike very much…but my face feels wind burned. ha.

  2. Mind Margins says:

    What a great day! You probably saw much more wildlife than you were expecting. I always loved seeing all the pelicans on the Missouri River when we used to visit Great Falls, and now we have a growing flock of our own here at White Rock Lake a few miles from our house. If it’s not too much trouble, could you send a few sandhill cranes our way, too? 🙂

  3. Lyle Krahn says:

    Whenever I try to outrun a storm it turns out quite differently! What a great sight all those pelicans must have been. They are truly majestic birds.

    • westerner54 says:

      Not my typical weather luck, either. The pelicans were incredible – it was almost as if they were flying up and purposely posing in front of beautiful backgrounds for me.

  4. avian101 says:

    What a wonderful place that is, I’d be crazy running with my camera and all that wildlife! 🙂

  5. TedG says:

    Not shabby at all! I do love those pelicans. Such grace in the air, seemingly a prehistoric relic.

  6. hazelzs says:

    The kind of a day to live for! Amazing photos. What a day.

  7. Jeff Katzer says:

    Wow, what a great day in the field. I have been watching pelicans and sandhill cranes along the Columbia River the last few weeks too. Thanks for the photos.

  8. Incredible wildlife shots. I’m so impressed by the big sky and the backdrop of mountains.

  9. I feel airborne just looking at your photos. Beautiful.

  10. Morris in MT says:

    Hey, you were in my neck of the woods! I live in Townsend. It is a great area for wildlife photography. You know it is windy when you can see whitecaps on the dust abatement ponds! Great to see the Mountain Goats are back down low at Avalanch Gulch. I will have to get out there this weekend. Great pelican shots! Thanks for posting; I am enjoying your blogs!

  11. Sue says:

    What a great wildlife viewing day, and I love your flight photos of the Pelicans!

  12. Znara says:

    The mountain goats are so cute! Have you ever seen the movie “Winged Migration”? You are always having such great bird adventures that I think you would like it.

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