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A local wildlife treat
pelicans at Donnelly Park 1
Pelicans have started to visit Turlock’s Donnelly Park. These birds have a 9-foot wing span and their bills are a foot long (Photo by Oly Fruge).

My husband Oly and I are truly blessed to be able to do what we love while social distancing: go on nature outings!

The summer of 2020 we went several times to Hatfield Park, along the Merced River. We enjoyed watching nesting birds in the riparian habitat, such as American Robins, Western Bluebirds, Nuttall's Woodpeckers and Western Wood Pewees. Pewees are cute little flycatchers and we had never seen them nesting before.

Last winter we frequented our local National Wildlife Refuges, Merced and San Luis, sometimes seeing as many as 65 different species of birds per trip. (Note: Birdwatching is reputed to be good for the senior citizen brain. Personally, I can vouch that being out in nature is also good for the soul and the spirit!)

Recently, we have been enjoying watching American White Pelicans at Donnelly Park in Turlock, about a half mile from our home. We sometimes see these huge birds out at the refuges, but this is the first time we have had them wintering here in Turlock.

pelicans at Donnelly Park 2
Oly and Linda Fruge observed over 40 pelicans at Donnelly Park earlier this month (Photo by Oly Fruge).

These pelicans have a 9-foot wing span and their bills are a foot long. They are one of the two largest birds in North America, the other being the California Condor. They are quite a bit larger than the brown pelicans on the coast. They can eat three or four pounds of fish daily, and often coordinate in small groups while fishing. Synchronized swimming!

We first noticed a couple white pelicans at the park in mid-September, 2021. The flock — or "brief," "pod," "pouch," "scoop," or "squadron" — gradually increased to about 60 individuals in December.  I kind of like the term " squadron.” Once I saw some flying low over West Minnesota and they reminded me of B52s.

Oly says the birds at the park notified their friends. ‘Come on over, there are lots of carp here!’   At last count, we saw just over 40 pelicans at Donnelly, and we are wondering how long they will be here. Will there be enough fish for them to stay much longer? When will they head north to their nesting grounds?

Are your kids antsy and needing a break? Do you need one? Head on over to Donnelly Park to see the pelicans while you can. Enjoy this special wildlife treat!