Pelicans...Pelicans... Truth And Myth

excerpts The Austrian Eduard Hodek made a series of trips on the lower Danube between 1869 and 1886, which resulted in his thorough studies of the Danube pelicans and brought important contributions to the information on their life and habits. At the time, birds nested in the swamps of the Danube at Cernavoda, or further up at Oltenita. Hodek says: "It would be unrealistic to attempt an approximate estimation, from here to the East up to the Black Sea; the number of the nesting birds is surely unimaginable; there must be millions of them." In 1874, the Sintenis brothers discovered an impressive colony of ordinary pelicans in the ghiol (lake) of Cuibeda and they confessed: "We could have taken thousand of eggs…" but they settled only for a couple of hundred.On a ornithological and hunting trip in the Dobruja in 1897, the Hungarian count G. Almasy protests overtly against the "outrageous increase of the feather trade of recent years, resulting from the competition between Hodek and baron Kalbermatten."The pelicans continued to withdraw to more peaceful places. Robert von Dombrowski, temporarily settled in Romania, saw the depletion of the colonies that after 1909 could be found only in the Delta. One by one, our precious fowls were stuffed and adorned the museums of Europe. The ravages made along the continent, as the ornithologist Dionisie Lintia rightly denounced them, led to the extinction of several Danubian species. It is a wonder how the other rare species managed to survive, since the prejudices brought to our avifauna increased with the hunting of birds with nuptial plumage (which were better paid for), and the disaster deepened with the collection of nests and eggs, and the killing of baby birds. That this pillage was stopped was due only to the determined action of Romanian scientists, supported by a press campaign. Unfortunately, coming as it did in 1912, it had no long-term effect due to the fact that the First World War was drawing ever nearer. The three or four nesting colonies left in the reed thicket of the Delta continued to suffer. With reference to his research done between 1923 and 1925, Dionisie Lintia pointed out with regret: "From 1910 to this day, the situation of both species of pelicans has become truly worrying. The quantities mentioned by the Sintenis brothers, by Hodek, Dombrowski and the others that lived some time ago seem interesting stories today." Editura pentru Turism, 1973 The album Pelicans…Pelicans… Truth and Myth, which is an older dream of the author, starts with an extensive introduction on what was believed of, written about, or commented on the pelican since the time of the Egyptian pharaohs… Referring to the writings of Pliny the Elder, Claudius Aelianus, the author points out the place that the pelican has in biblical texts, in forgotten incunabula, during the age of medieval scholastics, or in the writings of the Renaissance naturalists (Gessner, Aldrovandi and others).The magnificent work of count Marsigli, "Danubius pannonico, mysicus observationibus", published in 1726 in The Hague, is admittedly the one that interests us the most, as it is a book on the life of all waterfowls, which populated heavily the entire basin of the Danube as far as Galatzi.With the help of the famous naturalist and geographer Alexander von Humboldt, Europe would find out about the valuable fertilizer guano, used by the Inca. Oviedo y Valdez signals the presence of the American pelican, and, once their specific spreading area has been delimitated, professional and amateur ornithologists entered the secret life of the pelicans with the help of the photo and video cameras. Among these, mention must be made of the Romanian Jean Dragescu, a preeminent naturalist who recorded colonies of pelicans on the inaccessible rocks of Ab Tuyur in Equatorial Africa.The presence of the pelicans along the Danube does not extend further than this century, a fact which is valid for the whole Europe. The ornithologist Dionisie Lintia comments on the "ravages" along the Danube, some of which were made in the name of science. Although it is an interesting historical documentary, the legend is overcome by the truth; two thirds of this photographic kaleidoscope are dedicated to the intimate life of the pelicans in their various manifestations (the careful morning toilet, the flight, the fishing, the nesting, the drama of the offspring facing ruthless enemies, the interesting aspects related to the feeding of the babies, among which are included the feeding rituals on the surface of the water). All these are the result of thorough ecological and ethological observations obtained with a patience worthy of a genuine naturalist, completed by the inspired poetry of a meritorious photographer.We would also like to mention the position adopted by Dr. Bichiceanu regarding the contribution of the avifauna to the preservation of the natural balance. This position entails fighting the misconception of the damage brought about by pelicans to the fish economy, with no consideration for their sanitary role. Besides the fight against the would-be ichtyophagy of water birds, the album-book, through its love for the creation of nature, has a high ethical and sightseeing value, which builds up the artistic value of the images. Val. Puşcariu

by Mircea Bichiceanu