Pelican Island

The Summer of 1980 I went on an excursion in a 14 foot skiff with photographer friends Ray Matthews and Foster Scott. We launched the boat from Ocracoke and began to explore the inlet and some small islands. One island especially attracted us. Known as Beacon Island, it was once the site of a small brick lighthouse in the mid-1800’s.

Breeding pelicans were first observed on Beacon in 1928, but the population ran into trouble with widespread use of DDT which weakened the shells, causing mortalities as the birds numbers plummeted. Following the ban of DDT in 1972, brown pelicans began making a dramatic comeback.

One morning, I used a 20mm Nikkor lens on an F2 to photograph the nest site on the opposite side of the island.

Then attaching a 400mm Novoflex lens I caught this one returning to its nest.

We used the island as a base camp, and explored surrounding waters and islands for three days. At the time, research was being conducted on Beacon as it was the northernmost nesting site for brown pelicans on the east coast. Since then the island has come under the ownership and protection of Audubon North Carolina. Today pelican nesting on Beacon is prolific.

 

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