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Pelicans and Night Herons
Dr. Dan Witt Special to the Tribune Pelicans at the wetlands.

I love teal season! These are the best ducks for the table in my estimation. I have been gifted with a beautiful Labrador that I can pick up anytime and take home. It is a very special friend that will loan you his dog. I don’t have words.

We hunted Wednesday evening. The Bottoms are extended by lots of out-of-state hunters. They are serious hunters, and start early and stay late. Most are really good guys. It is getting harder to find places to hunt with land leasing and space at the Bottoms with decent access being limited. The flat-bellied wrecking crew all get their birds, but we “more mature” guys aren’t going to walk a mile in the marsh anymore. That’s OK — we can still scratch out a few birds and will survive.

The mosquitoes are just gruesome this year. It requires a lot of spray just to be able to hunt. It’s this way every year, so we mention it and go on. Just be forewarned if you haven’t been out yet.

The wind was light and straight out of the south when we put on our waders and made our way to the edge of some cattails to set up. We had a dozen decoys and a mojo. Set up was pretty quick and then we waited. The sounds of the marsh make the time fly by. There are thousands of gulls—ring-billed and Franklin mostly. They are swooping and diving everywhere, and love to steal food from their friends. The pelicans are awesome! There are thousands of pelicans hanging out and just being elegant. I know they are squeaky, nasty birds, but they are so pretty in the slanted light of the evening sun. I am not exaggerating when I say “thousands” of pelicans. They migrate through here every year. I am always amazed that they can find enough shad and carp to eat. High in the sky or low on the water in formation to join the massive groups—it is an amazing sight. You will have to go look — I can’t describe it adequately. When we were coming home in the early dark of the evening hundreds were sitting in pool 1 right by the road.  

The other birds that stopped me were the night herons. There are two kinds of night herons here — black-crowned and yellow-crowned. Most are the black-crowned variety. They are usually very secretive and stay back in the marsh. If you look carefully, you can see a couple of white head feathers that are very unique. About 45 minutes before dark, the sky was filled with night herons. There were hundreds of these birds flying in groups of 5-30 or so. They sound very much like the Great Blue Heron when they squawk. I don’t recall seeing that many night herons at one time in the marsh. It will always surprise you. Their favorite snack is crayfish, and they are well-fed!

I got home with five birds. I pluck my birds and then split the bird down the back to remove the backbone. That lets me clean the body cavity thoroughly and filets the duck so that it lays flat on the grill or in the skillet. A little bit of Tony’s seasoning, and you have a meal fit for a king. They are precious birds!

Enjoy these pictures of pelicans and night herons. I love chasing these guys and have lots of pictures. I hope you can take a drive at dawn or dusk and watch the magic of our beautiful marsh!


Doctor Dan Witt is a retired physician and nature enthusiast. He can be reached at