Brown Pelican, Allegan Co. 9/3/04

Rick Brigham brighamr at
Fri Sep 3 21:21:21 EDT 2004


At 7pm this evening I found the Brown Pelican sitting on the beach just north of the north breakwall of the Kalamazoo River. It was with a large group of gulls and terns. 
I have had numerous people ask for specifics on how to find this bird. I recommend going to Shore Acres Township Park (adjacent to Saugatuck Dunes State Park) at the west end of 138th Ave. park in the large dirt lot there and walk back outside of lot to the trailhead to the beach which says"ski". Follow this trail perhaps a mile up and down through a beautiful beech-maple-oak climax forest. This is not an easy trail, although it is wide and well maintained. There are two forks in the trail that might cause some confusion. At the first go left. At the second go right. Once at the beach look south towards the breakwall for gull flocks in which the pelican may be. 

Another option would be to drive just beyond (right) the entrance to Shore Acres to Saugatuck Dunes State Park. Take the "Beach" trail - the well used main trail. It is a bit less strenuous being perhaps half a mile long with more gradual ascents and descents. However, it is further from the north breakwall of the Kalamazoo River so you will want a higher power scope to look for the bird.

I was tipped off to the fact that the pelican was still about by a customer who called me at 5pm today at the store to tell me he had just seen it fly by as he was sitting on the beach near Castle Park (a private lakeshore subdivision). He said it was diving after fish and that it was headed south. My suspicion is that it has found some contentment in the stretch of shoreline between the south breakwall at Holland and the north breakwall of the Kalamazoo River. Checking the limited vantage points therein might be worth while. A couple such spots I know of are the south breakwall at Holland, Laketown Township Park and Oval Beach. The south breakwall at Holland is accessed through private property, so stop at the guard house to tell the guard that you want to see the lighthouse ("Big Red" as the locals call it) and he will show you where to park. From there follow the signs to the lighthouse and south breakwall. It is perhaps a half mile walk. Laketown Township Park is at the end of 142nd Ave. Here you will climb a hefty set of  stairs to the top of the dune where you can view the lake. If you have the fortitude to continue down the stairs (and thereafter back up and down) to the beach you will find the shoreline north and south to be less obstructed. Oval Beach Is found by goping to Douglas and turning west on Center St. at the stop light on Blue Star Hwy. Go to the first stop sign and turn right on Ferry St. Follow this for a couple miles and turn left on Perryman St. The Oval Beach has a $5 fee and being Labor Day weekend will be jam packed unless you are there early. I think the gate may open as early as 8am, but they don't start charging until 9am.

Sorry for the dissertation, but all of this is in an effort to help birders out since there may be many who have time to look for the pelican this holiday weekend.

Good luck and good birding!
Rick Brigham 
Douglas MI
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