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A brown pelican hitches a ride aboard the Miss Owls Head, as the boat was fishing for herring off Martinique Beach, about 60 kilometres northeast of Halifax in a handout photo. A brown pelican that has become the most prominent among the rarely seen birds blown into northern Nova Scotia appears to be boat hopping its way south, to the relief of naturalists eager he seek warmer weather. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-David Theriault)

HALIFAX -- A brown pelican swept into Cape Breton by post-tropical storm Dorian appears to be boat-hopping its way south, with herring fleets assisting and birdwatchers cheering it on.

Darren Stevens, a 52-year-old herring fishermen, took photos of the pelican while the bird perched on the bow of his vessel on Tuesday, about 60 kilometres east of Halifax.

The pelican -- rarely seen in Nova Scotia -- gained a following among birdwatchers and photographers in Cape Breton after Dorian swept hundreds of birds northwards, away from their natural habitats.

However, as the weather cooled, there were worries the bird could be harmed if people fed it and prolonged its stay.

The bird, nicknamed "Dorian" by some, has decreased some of these worries by heading for the fleets on the eastern shore.

The Pelican Harbour Seabird Station in Miami, Fla., has said temperatures consistently lower than 10 C could harm a bird whose species is normally found in the southern U.S.

Steven McGrath, a photographer who documented the bird's stay in Glace Bay, said fishermen in the Cape Breton harbour reported the pelican's absence over the weekend.

On Tuesday, Stevens says the pelican hopped from one boat to another as the vessels worked off Martinique Beach, just east of Halifax, on Tuesday.

He said it appeared to be flying strongly from one vessel to the next.

"He didn't look as if he were in any trouble or anything," said Stevens, who was among the Nova Scotians tracking the pelican in the news.

The fisherman said if the bird continues its boat-assisted trip southwards, it might easily hook up with other herring fleets that give it a place to rest and feast.

"If he's following along the coast ... there is another fleet along Port Mouton and he may stop in that area," Stevens said.

The Port Mouton fleet is about 200 kilometres further to the south.

Photos taken on Tuesday showed fishermen hamming it up next to the now famous juvenile bird -- offering thumbs-up signs as it sat on the gunnels near their catch.

David McCorquodale, a biologist at Cape Breton University, said many of the rarely seen "storm birds" swept in by Dorian are now making their way south.

Those include the black skimmers, a long-winged bird with stark black-and-white plumage and an elongated beak, which are being seen in greater numbers in Yarmouth County and Cape Sable Island.

"Presumably they are moving back to where they are normally in the Carolinas or Florida," said McCorquodale, who is also an avid birdwatcher.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 2, 2019.