. . .AND THEN. . . .


In the earlier episode of this tale, I told how we ended up with a baby pelican -- well, at least a very young one. He became known as Clipper and, in a short time, I became attached to him.

Then he became sick, and my daughter Diane took him to a vet that specialized in birds.

(Let me explain how Diane knew the vet specialized in birds. In our house there is a cockatoo whose name is Blanco, but usually referred to as 'Boo-Boo', or just Boo. There is also an Orange-winged Amazon parrot named Pedro. Before these, Diane had kept a fish-crow as a child {Diane, not the crow -- altho the crow was a baby when she found him.} Several times we tried getting the crow to leave, but he paid no attention. Then he broke his wing, so he stayed for the rest of his life.

Therefore, Diane had much experience with birds and needed no instruction.

Now, we figured we'd never see Clipper again. After the vet treated him, he'd be turned over to Wildlife and, eventually, released.

If, that is, he was cured.

The afternoon after next, Clipper returned!

We were, of course, glad to see him come back. Diane fed him a baitfish, which he immediately swallowed. Then he did a little pelican dance, shifting about and moving his head from side to side.

Things returned to normal. Clipper would, occasionally, fly off for a few hours, either out to the bay or to some place further up the canal. We've not found out where, but it must be a comfortable place, as he would do it often. We wondered if someone down there was also feeding Clipper, or was it just another place of safety?

I say 'safety', because there are a couple of stray cats who come into our yard and, worse, one night Diane spotted a bobcat on the roof of a storage building to the left of her window. At the time, Clipper was sleeping on her porch but, as the bobcat poised to leap. Diane tapped on her glass to alert Clipper. His head came up and he moved away then returned to his 'place of safety'. He was gone all night. The next morning, around nine-thirty, he showed back up for his breakfast.

That day is when something changed -- or, I should say, that night.

My back porch, where I usually go to smoke, had a visitor -- Clipper!

Clipper, it seems, had staked a claim on my porch -- it was his territory, now.

I say 'his', but I now had some doubts concerning his/her sex. Clipper was perched with his/her feet on my ashtray -- as if wearing high-heel shoes! And Clipper kept it up. On the table meant perching on the ashtray.

Veddy strange.

But this was just the beginning.

+ + +

Clipper was a socializing bird. He wasn't afraid of people, but then, I've never seen a pelican that was. Anywee, it led to the below:

Of course, that isn't a real newspaper clipping -- I just thought it was a more interesting way of passing on what I had heard. Considered calling the News-Herald about it, but decided not to.

Clipper did draw some publicity. In the first installment, I mentioned the Navy Base engineers who liked him and gave him his name. They wanted Diane to bring him out to the Base, and she did. One of the engineers started taking pictures and doing some recording.

At one point he asked some questions and held out his mike. Diane started to answer, and he said, "Not you! I'm interviewing Clipper."

The long and short of it is that he made a program out of it that he put on the internet (no, I don't have the address) and burned a DVD. Later, he loaned Diane the DVD and we played it and enjoyed it. And I snuck a coupla photos from it that have "NB" in the lower righthand corner. Here's one --

I can already see this report is gonna be much longer than the first one. Still have stuff to report on and photos to include.

Clipper has a way of sleeping with his head turned around and tucked under his wings. Here's a shot of him doing that on our dock --

I mentioned that Clipper had decided my back porch was his territory.

Of course, it led to some conflict. . . .

One nite I went out to read a bit and take a few puffs. Clipper was settled on my chair, but right at the edge. After a moment's consideration, I decided there was room enuf for both of us and sat on the edge of the chair. After a brief time during which Clipper was doing his own contemplation, he moved and got on the table.

I regretted that we couldn't share territory (at least not that close) but I'm not going to smoke inside, so the back porch is my 'smoking area'. Now, we did work out a compromise: Clipper would sit on the table and I'd sit in the chair. Of course, with the ashtray on the table, I ended up tossing some well-smoked butts into the yard.

Other problems developed.

Often, I would leave the book I was reading on the table for the next time I stepped out. Well, there was the time I came out to read -- and Clipper was on the table.

I distracted him with my right hand and, with my left, snatched the book away. He objected by aiming a few pecks my way.

Pedro's cage is on the porch, opposite where I keep my chair. At first, if Pedro was in his cage and Clipper came flying in to land on the grass, Pedro would scream in alarm. I kept telling him, "It's just Clipper. He's okay."

It took awhile, but finally they worked things out. In fact, once I was out with Pedro in his cage and Clipper on the table. Clipper pushed his long beak up against the cage, and Pedro rubbed his own beak along the edge of Clipper's.

Peace was achieved.

As mentioned before, Pedro is an African Gray parrot and, like most parronts, is intelligent. For instance, when I'm lighting up a cigarette, he will sometimes start coughing. Everybody's warning me about smoking, even my parrot!

Also, when I take a nap, Pedro (who can see me thru the sliding glass door) will hold off on his raucous calls. When I wake up, he'll make a few questioning noises and, if I don't respond, then comes his loud and raucous calls.

But back to Clipper.

I didn't mention the height of our dispute for territory. It came one afternoon when Pedro was in his cage. It was time to take him to his 'home' (his larger indoor cage). Now, his claws have gotten quite sharp so, instead of having 'em clipped, I just put on a work glove to protect my hand.

This time Clipper was standing on the glove!

I tried the 'distraction' routine, but that didn't work. I tried just grabbing the glove, to be met by really strong pecks. Then --

I grabbed Clipper's beak and held it, while pulling him away from the glove.

That worked, of course, but you better believe he didn't like it! Afterward, for several days, Clipper wouldn't get on the porch if I was sitting there.

Even when he finally accepted me as a co-owner of the porch territory, he was prone to peck at me if I sat near him.

As the days went by, things settled down. . .somewhat. But there were still signs of resentment.

Now, there is another porch Clipper once laid claim to -- the porch off the kitchen, where Diane would feed him. Around 9:30 each morning, he decided it was time for breakfast. Diane would buy a bag of frozen bait fish, almost hand-sized, and thaw them in the kitchen sink. Clipper would take them gleefully, even doing a little dance to entice food.

But Diane reminded us that her rescue of Clipper was only with the idea that he could be taught to live on his own, not to be a pet, but return to being a wild pelican. So, when she felt his craw three days after his last feeding and found evidence of food there, she said it was time to cut him off depending on us.

So she stopped feeding him -- stopped entirely.

A few days later, she was out in a boat -- Clipper following -- and spotted a place where pelicans and seagulls were going wild about scooping up fish. She pointed Clipper that way. . .and he joined 'em!

A coupla days went by with no Clipper, then he showed up just at dark. Assumed his territory again. I pulled my chair further back from his table and smoked.

That was the last time I saw Clipper.

After three nites with no Clipper, Diane took the boat to a nearby place called Pelican Island because, occasionally, pelicans will gather there. Hadn't been many the last few times she'd been by, but it was now spring, when a young man's fancy (or young males of any breed) turn to thoughts of. . .procreation.

Pelican Island was real crowded -- and there, standing a bit away from the others, was Clipper, preening himself. To be certain, she called out, 'Clipper!'

He was the only pelican who responded by looking up and at her.

He's left us some reminders.

The feather is obvious. The photo, on the other hand, shows -- ah -- Clipper's discharges. They're hard to remove, as witness the brush. But they will be removed.

Memories can't be removed that easily.

Goodbye, Clipper. . . .