Dalmatian Pelican, Cornwall: “Quick, where’s the bucket of fish heads??!!?”


The long haul down is never easy, but by 7am this morning we’d scorched south over the tarmac, and I was birding the scrub, but mainly the skyline, at Land’s End, Cornwall with Neill Hunt, Jason Stannage and Rob Pocklington in hot sunshine.
Whitethroats squawked their brains out alongside Chiffies and Willow Warblers, Peregrine patrolled the cliffs and even a nice Black Redstart was silhouetted by the early morning sun.
We’d detoured to year tick Cetti’s Warbler at Marzipan Marsh on the way.


The great big target was nowhere to be seen, which was a tad unsettling, and after a pleasant hour or two we headed a short distance back up the road to walk onto the gentle brow of a hill above Trevilly Farm to scan the rolling landscape between Sennen and St Buryan.


All a bit quiet even after the usual dancing, agricultural disco and general horsing around, with no sign of the Dalmatian Pelican that’s been circling the south western edge of England since Saturday at least.
Worryingly the pelican was only seen until 11am yesterday and Land’s End is a long long way to go to dip.
Think, think, what would Johnny Morris do?
Apparently Dalmatian Pelican needs up to 7kg of food every day, and having ruled out a prolonged stake-out of the fishmongers of Penzance and all points west, we continued to scan the skies.
Suddenly the bird filled the heavens and pagers as the temperatures got warm enough for thermalling after 10am, and following an anxious few minutes Rob picked it up circling, before the local buzzards began battering the pelican above our heads – yup, that’s how big it was…



Look at the gob on that!
The bird drifted about in the hot, shimmery skies, barely flapping its massive 320cm wingspan – most impressive.
It was hard to approximate the size of the thing in the skies, but we gave it a go anyway on the track up to Trevilly Farm…


That’s about as scientific as we get, and as the pelican began to drift off east, we decided to give chase, driving ahead of the bird and waiting as it circled over each of our new positions, until it performed a cool circuit over the rooftops and church tower of St Buryan.


Having been identified as an individual that has already darkened the skies of Poland, Germany and France this year, it’ll be fascinating to see what the “grown-ups” make of its credentials in the future.
All I know is that the trip to see it was a blast – thanks to Neill (top driving buddy), Jason and Rob (list in tatters) for the excellent company.
Meanwhile best leave the last word, and probably best field description, to the one and only Dixon Lanier Merritt, way back in 1910:

“A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican,
He can take in his beak
Enough food for a week
But I’m damned if I see how the helican!”

7 thoughts on “Dalmatian Pelican, Cornwall: “Quick, where’s the bucket of fish heads??!!?”

    • Wood Sandpiper from the platform at Hesketh Road, Marshside, this morning, and Spot Fly and Garden Warbler in the Sandplant.


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