Petatan and the pelicans

From Dixon Lanier Merritt

“A wonderful bird is a pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican.
He can take in his beak
Food enough for a week;
But I’m damned if I see how the helican.”

Every winter white pelicans from Canada head on down to Lake Chapala, Jalisco/Michoacan, Mexico.  Talk about your snowbirds!  These are the real snowbirds. 

I love these white pelicans for a couple of reasons and I love Petatan even more.  The white pelicans are a favorite of mine because they come into Petatan waters after a long, long trip from Canada, and because they are so graceful in and above the waters of Lake Chapala.  And I also love them because they are so goony when trying to take off or land!

They come in in a long string behind a leader and alight somewhat gently on the lake’s surface like this: 

But whenever they decide that they want to take off, they’re the clumiest of birds! 

There is much flapping of big black tipped white wings, but not much in the way of coming out of the water.  Kinda like me trying to get up out of a low chair.  We’re both struggling against the pull of gravity [and in their case, the suction of water] and not having a great deal of luck.   But, eventually, we both somehow break those ties to earth and make our escape. 

As I mentioned, the pelicans that come to Petatan are large, black wing tipped white pelicans: 


Petatan itself is a very small fishing village located almost at the southeastern tip of Lake Chapala.  As I come upon it from the northwest from Jocotepec, it reminds me of Brigadoon.  You know, the small Scottish village that appears magically every 100 years. 

Now intellectually I know that Petatan is there all the time, but emotionally it always seems to have just risen from the depths of Lake Chapala….connected only by a small isthmus.   There’s only one small one lane road to get you into the place and back out, and even that is filled with potholes.   

And it’s the only place that I know of around the lake that actually juts out into the waters and can get cut off from the “mainland” by a lot of rain.  Which I have seen happen.  Petatan always looks so magical when you get your first glimpse of it. 

That’s it in the picture above, sticking out into the lake. 

I’m guessing there are only a couple of hundred people who live there and that all of them are involved in fishing in one way or another.  Either they are out on their boats:

or they’re scaling and gutting the fish, and tossing the innards out to the pelicans. 

And when that happens, it’s like a cheap buffet in Vegas!  The pelicans and egrets line up nicely for a while and then all hell breaks loose! 

There apparently used to be a lot of pelicans on the north shore of Lake Chapala, but because the north shore is so popular and inhabited now, there aren’t many fish prep places here on this side of the lake.  Lakefront property is valuable. 

The pelicans, aware of this, head to the south shore where life for them and for the local residents is pretty much the same.  Where they can scarf all the goodies they want.  

 But when my friend Kathi and I went down there this past week, we saw that even Petatan is changing.  Sometime during the past year, the local government splurged and put up a malecon ….the Mexican equivalent of a boardwalk.  I like that I can walk around easier, but I’m not so sure that either the pelicans, Kathi,  or I really think it’s an improvement. 

About Barbara

in april of 2008, i moved from the united states to mexico. during my working days, i held lots and lots of jobs....almost all chosen because they were fun or interesting instead of how much they paid. when i started thinking about retirement (in my 40s), i realized that i would never be able to retire to a country where english was the native language. and although i had traveled to every state in the US -- and lived in lots of them -- i had never been outside the country with the exception of canada and mexico. and since you now know that i could never afford to retire in canada (even to the french-speaking area), mexico won by default.
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7 Responses to Petatan and the pelicans

  1. restlessjo says:

    What a glorious post- I must Google Petatan, never having heard of it. Know what you mean about the boardwalk. They’re a bit of a useful intrusion sometimes.

    • Barbara says:

      Jo, i’m so glad that you enjoyed it! No wonder you’ve not heard of Petatan. It’s a teeny, tiny little village on the south shore of Lake Chapala. One of those undiscovered places that my friends and I love to visit. Come down and see us!

  2. J A Jensen says:

    Must be hard on your eyes livin’ down there…..all the cool things you have to look at all the time. I’m livin’ my tourist life vicariously thru you….when we gonna take a stroll down where all the hot senoritas are…….luv your blog baby gurl

  3. Kathi says:

    It was a fun day all in all…….the pelicans are so very special. Can’t wait for them to come over to our side…..they always do.

  4. Karen says:

    The pelicans come to Yellowstone Nat. Park every summer to nest. Most years we will see them in great circles over the Yellowstone River (near Laurel, MT about 25 miles north of us) and they will stay on the river for a week or two resting ( I think) and then fly on into the park. I wonder if some of the ones we are seeing, you are also seeing. One of our favorite birds from the Everglades and we are so lucky to be able to get to see them out here also.

  5. Gigi says:

    I love those wide narrow pix, Barb! Good Job! What a beautiful day you had. Hi Kathi!

  6. Maravilla says:

    Im from Petatan!!!!!!!

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