On our last evening on Kangaroo Island off the coast of Australia, we stopped off at the small village of Kingscote for the nightly feeding of the pelicans. At exactly 5 pm John, a self-appointed pelican feeder, pulled up beside the rocky shoreline in his small ute (truck) accompanied by a powerful aroma of fish. For nine years, rain, hail and shine, John has fed the pelicans with a dedication to be admired.
Dressed in a sloppy sweater, he donned long waterproof fisherman's pants and slapped a squashed partially brimmed greasy hat on his head. “We don't want any unpleasant surprises even if it is supposed to be lucky,” he quipped in his Aussie drawl. Carrying his pails laden with powerfully odorous fish down to the waters edge, he dodged impatient seabirds as they dive-bombed him in their hurry to feed.
Just then, looking up I was amazed to see huge flocks of pelicans sweeping in over the cliffs at the edge of the bay. With their legs tucked neatly under them they approached, then dived like guided missiles straight into the feeding circle.
As the 'guests' arrived for dinner, clouds of gulls swooped in to take fishy chunks from John's outstretched hand. He entertained us with an amusing and occasionally ribald commentary while a group of pelicans like well-bred ladies stood in a row in front of him waiting their turn to feed. Others, impatient, snatched and grabbed. As far as they were concerned John's rubber-gloved fingers were part of the meal.
It is not surprising that this captivating show has earned John an international reputation. Letters from all over the world addressed simply to 'John, the Pelican Man, Australia' arrive on his doorstep regularly.