Having 5000 Great White Pelicans, fly en-masse just over your head and land in the water a few meters away to begin a feeding frenzy is indeed a humbling and awe inspiring moment.
The noise that is created from all the wing flapping is deafening and sounds a jet flying low over your head, whilst the visual cues send your senses into explosive overload.
I was privileged enough to witness this recently in Lake Nakuru National Park in Kenya where every evening, over a four-day period, the pelicans that had spent the day scattered around the lakeshore gathered and started to feed in the southern shallows of the lake. This was spurred on by the increasing activity of small fish that were presumably spawning in the shallows and who created waves of bubbles, with fins and tails protruding from the water.
The pelicans moved in waves of tightly packed birds, that flew in and crash landed onto the water before scooping their massive bills deep down and coming up with large mouthfuls of fish. Birds that were at the front of the feeding column were soon overtaken by others and this created an ever circling movement of flapping wings as the birds at the back now jostled to the front again. The pelicans worked co-operatively and in many cases drove the panicking fish into the shallows and straight out onto land, where they were eagerly snatched up. Greater and Lesser Flamingos that were also feeding in the shallows had to duck down low as the pelicans flew over head.
Behind the wake of pelicans, Yellow-billed Storks, African Spoonbills, Great White Egrets, Yellow Billed Egrets and Little Egrets followed, also trying to cash in on the remaining few fish. A late comer to all the action was a stately Saddle-Billed Stork that dwarfed the other birds with its long neck and legs. This bird ran quickly through the other birds and quickly stabbed into the water coming up with small fish. All the commotion in the water obviously also stirred up all the small aquatic insects and these were in turn also fed upon by Black-Winged Stilts and Grey Headed Gulls.
Amazingly, just as quickly as it had begun, the feeding frenzy was over and everything returned to its relatively quite pace with birds resting and preening on the lake shores. In my opinion, this event has to be in the top ten natural events that I have ever witnessed!