Pelican Pete & Western Slope Trip

June 2008 I visited the western slope & had the chance to dance around the train before it left Silverton ( Pics 1-8 )

Monday July 7, I went fishing at a reservoir called Main Lake west of the Denver metro area. ( Pics 9-16 )

I arrived ~ 4am in the dark and snapped a few great sunrise pics. A flock of White Pelicans flew in, huge, white & very pterodactyl-like even in the dark. When birds this size are on a body of water here in Colorado, it means there are big fish for them to dine on, usually carp. Last year, I caught a 26" carp on this same lake and was really hoping for the same excitement. Thought I had a fish on at one point, but it was only a beer can. After the sun came up, I packed it up and headed back to the car but saw what appeared to be an injured pelican on the opposite shore and decided to check it out.

An exhausted pelican was flopped on the shore, unable to get on land and unable to swim due to a mass of fishing line and sticks and muck stuck to one of its legs. Its wings were in good working order so I was determined to do whatever I could to help out. American White Pelicans do not dive for their dinner like their brown cousins on the ocean, rather paddle and scoop up fish as they go. This poor guy couldnt swim and couldnt take off to fly elsewhere. After the 4th of July weekend, he was stressed, hungry and too exhausted to put up much of a fight. After calling the Colorado Division of Wildlife, I was given instructions on how to catch/restrain the bird and cut the line. Easy for them to say. Have you ever tried to catch a bird with a 3ft bill and a 9 ft wingspan?

With the assistance of another nearby fisherman, we were able to get in the water to keep him from paddling off, get a hold of him with a long net I had to buy and drape a blanket over his head. As soon as his eyes were covered, he surrendured and we were able to see a huge hook with a long metal Y shaped leader, each end of the Y sporting a huge lead weight, and attached to that all kinds of sticks and trash etc. We could not remove the hook, but cut the line and set him free and away he paddled as fast as a speed boat. No more than a minute later he was half way down the lake and we observed him tipping his bill toward the sky and swallowing the first fish he had probably had for days. The pictures below are of an exhausted Pelican Pete taking a well deserved nap on land with some canadian geese standing sentry.

I feel terrific about what happened that day and I know the universe had me and my new fishing buddy Josh there the same morning for a reason. I have now been christened 'Pelican Patty' by the Colorado DOW and have even been ijnvited to come into their main office and apply for a job. Stranger things have happened!

 

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