We don’t have anywhere near that number of pelicans, but all summer there are some two dozen of the huge white birds floating down the North Platte. Today there were eighteen sunning on a rock midstream when a little flotilla of teens in inner tubes floated into sight. The birds stayed in place until the tubers were about a hundred feet away then took flight.
White pelicans don’t dive like their brown cousins, but instead work as a team. I saw them fishing yesterday. At first they floated in a line down the center of the river then gradually pinched together the two ends of the line, getting closer together and forming a “U.” At some signal only they know, each bird began thrashing the river with its wings and probing the water with their beaks as they drove the fish toward shore. In the shallows they filled those huge beaks with some of our trophy trout.
When I told one of the guests about it at dinner time he told me that a few years ago he’d been fishing and spooked a flock that had just finished their hunt. They scurried upriver and took off then flew over the fisherman. In its panic, one of them lost its grip on a sixteen inch trout. The fish fell only a few feet from the fisherman. It was still alive, so he helped it into a deep pool and watched the frustrated pelicans flying upriver.