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Continued: On Wisconsin: Beaver Dam also home to pelicans, state's population continues to grow

  • Article by: BARRY ADAMS , Associated Press
  • Last update: September 1, 2014 - 12:05 AM

Joining them on the excursion was Jeff Bahls, an avid duck hunter, a retired John Deere Horicon Works employee and, for the past eight years, president of the Horicon Marsh Bird Club.

Bahls, 54, had a pair of binoculars strapped to his chest and was wearing a T-shirt reading "Life is simple. Eat. Sleep. Bird."

"Everybody seems to love them (white pelicans), especially when they fly in the big flocks," Bahls said. "They'll get on a thermal, and they'll circle and circle. They've been received really well."

Unlike Canada geese, which foul parks and lawns with their droppings, the pelicans typically stay away from populated areas. The vast majority of their land treks are limited to their nesting island, located in a fairly isolated part of the lake. The pelicans arrive in May and depart for fresh water habitat near the Gulf of Mexico in late September or early October, Bahls said.

At this time of the year, the island is brimming with young pelicans, old enough to swim but unable to fly. The three men kept their distance from the island, but even at more than 150 yards, scores of the birds began scurrying into the water. It didn't take long for the large young flock to group up and begin paddling in the bay. Above, older pelicans circled, while other adults swam nearby.

A few dead carp they had seen on the surface just moments earlier were quickly consumed.

"It's neat to watch them feed," Dahls said. "It's getting much more common to see them. I have seen and heard of them on the Rock River and even on the Madison lakes. They're definitely spreading out."

Beavers are common on signs and lawn ornaments in this city, where the public high school mascot is the Golden Beavers. The city's name came about when settlers in the mid-1800s discovered a beaver dam on a creek that flowed into what is now the Beaver Dam River.

After the three men got off the lake, they searched Beaver Dam to find something that made reference to pelicans but came up empty. But the excitement for the birds remains, nearly 15 years after their arrival.

"They're like buses flying in formation," said Mary Jo Budde, who works at Kornely's Craft & Hobby Store downtown and whose parents live on the lake.

Budde said the birds' takeoffs and landings are not graceful, but when they fly, "they're pretty. They just glide."

This is an AP Member Exchange shared by the Wisconsin State Journal

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