†I donít know if itís just me, but I always wonder if the Pelicans are going to show up for the Pelican Festival.
The festivities are going to be wonderful. I hope the pelicans are flattered.
I have always been fond of Pelicans. When I lived in the east we used to go to southern Florida during spring break. On the beach and on the piers we would have close encounters with the brown pelicans that are so common in the area.† The bold beggars would snatch bait from fishermen who dare to turn their backs and they would beg food from tourists eager to oblige.
†As a photographer I was always elated to get the photogenic winged subjects to pose for me so easily. Their oversized beaks that support their distinctive pouches and their quirky gestures make them comical to watch and their kamikaze style of fishing just adds to their interest.
When I moved to the Midwest I figured my pelican watching days were over.
However, I hadnít lived here very long when I was driving over Elk River Bridge and I swore I saw pelicans. Not the brown variety that I was used to - these were white, but pelicans nonetheless - I was sure of it.
That day when I drove home from working at the Grove Sun. It was 1979. I saw them again. This time it seemed like hundreds of them, even thousands so it seemed.
Back then, they would allow the lake to get very low, and the Elk River arm at that time sometimes just had water flowing through the middle of it and you could see land for maybe 50 yards on either side of it.
The pelicans were swarmed near the edge. So, always with a camera in tow, I ventured out to get some photos of the birds that so intrigued me.
Not satisfied with just a group shot from the shore I decided I had to get closer, which meant trudging out into the muddy exposed lake bottom.
†My prior experience with pelicans led me to believe that I could just venture close to them, say cheese, they would smile and I would have the photo of my dreams. But, not all pelicans are created equal. These white beauties were of the camera shy variety. In fact, as I would get closer to them, they would all, in unison, swim away in one big mass.
†I was careful to go very slow so as not to scare them away. I soon found out that if you walk too slowly or stop walking on the muddy river bottom you start to sink, which is what was happening to me. So, there I was, out in the middle of the lake, sinking in the mud, with no one around. All I could think of is that my husband is going to be so mad if I die out here trying to get a picture of pelicans. After a short panic attack I managed to get my feet pulled out of the mud minus my shoes.
†I also managed to pull off a few good shots of the pelicans as they flew away en mass. A sight to behold when you are right in the thick of them.
† Iíve taken a few photos of them since that time. Some as they circle so majestically in the sky and some as they swim on the lake working together to gather their meals.
Whatever their form, I appreciate them and their grandeur.† I have a better camera with a longer lens now, which is why I hope they get the word that the Pelican Festival is this weekend.
This year I would like sit somewhere that I can take the time to just enjoy watching them and patiently wait for the right shot.
†So, if you have the inside edge on the best place to get a good photo and youíd donít mind revealing it, give me a call. Just donít tell the pelicans Iím coming.
The newspaper is sponsoring a photo contest through next month, send us your best pelican pic ture and you can win a fantastic prize and have your photo featured in our paper.