by Marilyn and Keith Davis

White Pelican

"Cold Days and Good Memories"

        "Cold, windy, your nose and cheeks feel like pieces of ice, and your teeth ache because you've been smiling.... it’s sooo fun! The only people who have fun on such a miserable day are ones with a low IQ called "duck hunters".  I was one of them, and we got up at 4:00 in the morning, drove to an area south of Utah Lake, set up our duck blinds, and watched the pale sun rise and illuminate the earth. There was nothing moving, the sky was empty, but we knew we were having fun.... trying not towhite pelican by Brenda Rusnell freeze to death. The birds were too smart to be up on such a cold, miserable day.... but three humans weren't. The decoys were set out, we were hiding in our makeshift blinds in the middle of a large wheat field, and our bodies were slowly turning into icicles. Finally, to the north, the sky filled with white dots getting progressively larger and larger as they swept towards us. We were ready for the geese! But were these geese? Hundreds of white wings with black tips came in view.....and there was my first sight of Utah's White Pelicans. Never seeing one before, and now, less than a hundred feet above my head were hundreds of White Pelicans. Some days stand out, and never fade in your memories. On this day we harvested no Canada Geese or anything else, but I've never forgotten the cold, the wind, and those magnificent Pelicans." That’s my honey's account of his first encounter with Pelicans in northern Utah.

        Can you remember the first time you saw a Pelican? Was it in a Nursery Rhyme Book? Was it at Tracy Aviary? Or, were you outdoors in southern Utah like me when I saw four White Pelicans on Paul's Pond, looking like ocean liners compared to the small resident Mallards. Maybe you saw the hundreds of Pelicans, flying high in a V up the Virgin River drainage, silently making their way north. Maybe you saw the ones that stopped at Dale Wilson's Pond, or the ones at Gunlock, Quail Lake, or Minersville reservoirs. Maybe you saw Pelicans flying over Mesquite on their way to Lake Mead. Lucky you, if you saw Pelicans.

        The Great Salt Lake harbors large numbers of Pelicans because of the protection their breeding colony receives in the middle of the Lake. The adults have to fly long distances to find food for their young, for the Great Salt Lake has no fish. White Pelicans fish in shallow waters. Groups of these birds cooperate to surround and herd fish and then scoop them up in their enormous bill pouches. The White Pelican is a truly versatile character. In the air, a graceful flyer; on land, the butt of many waddling jokes.

        Artist Brenda Rusnell has rendered a fantastic image of the White Pelican. Thanks Brenda from all of us who enjoy your art work. Get ready for the Christmas Bird Counts. Try something new! Spend a wonderful full day outdoors learning about birds. For more information call Marilyn Davis, Red Cliffs Audubon - 435 673-0996.


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