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Pelicans are back at Nelson Lake Marsh, so see 'em while you can
By Rick West | Daily Herald Staff

A pair of pelicans flies just overhead Monday near Nelson Lake at the Dick Young Forest Preserve in Batavia. The first pelicans of the season arrived on their migration pattern March 19.


Rick West | Staff Photographer

Kathy Bleck, left, of Geneva, Marcia McBeath of Batavia and Peggy Erday of Geneva look skyward as a group of American White Pelicans soar overhead near Nelson Lake at the Dick Young Forest Preserve in Batavia.


Rick West | Staff Photographer

A trio of American White Pelicans soars near Nelson Lake at the Dick Young Forest Preserve in Batavia.


Rick West | Staff Photographer

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Published: 3/30/2010 1:04 PM

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The American White Pelicans are back in Batavia, but not for much longer, so get out and see them while you can.

For at least the eighth-straight spring, the birds have stopped at Nelson Lake in the Dick Young Forest Preserve. The pelicans typically stay at Nelson Lake through early April before continuing their journey north into Canada.

The forest preserve is at 39W115 Main St., off Nelson Lake Road, just west of Batavia. It is a 250-acre natural marshland and an Illinois State Nature Preserve.

According to the Kane County Audubon Society, the pelicans' arrival on March 19 was three days later than their earliest arrival date, which was last year.

Typically, the number of pelicans will increase over the next 7 to 10 days before gradually dropping off. According to observers, more than 300 - a record number - were on the lake for a few days last year. After about a month, all the pelicans will have left.

Until last year when there was a wider dispersal, Nelson Lake and its surrounding areas were the exclusive spring migratory stopover for the pelicans in northeast Illinois. According to the Kane County Forest Preserve District, they have never returned on fall migration.

The birds are huge, the largest measuring 62 inches in length (twice the size of a bald eagle) with a 9-foot wingspan.

The forest preserve district describes Nelson Lake Marsh as "a product of a late melting ice mass from the last retreating glaciers some 10,000 years. Also beneath this basin runs an older subglacial, bedrock canyon, and surrounding gravel hills combine to furnish an abundant and complex source of water that thwarted early pioneer attempts to drain the area for agricultural use and consequently much of the original rich habitat remains intact."

Hiking and horseback riding are also available at Dick Young Forest Preserve.

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