For the past 20 or so years, give or take a day or two, and in all kinds of weather, John appears at the Kingscote Wharf at 5pm with a big wide hat, a big bucket of fish and an even bigger story to tell. The pelicans begin to arrive about 10 minutes before John. Watching them arrive is an entertainment in its own right. These striking birds are so graceful in the air, but watching them come in for landing is like watching a train wreck - legs splayed, big wings flapping furiously and then wonky sideways landings happening all over the place. I lost count at 40 pelicans on the wharf, so there's not a lot of landing room for the late-comers. It's so funny to watch.
The wharf area is set up with some elevated seating with my 'guesstimate' that there's room for 100 people. There's no protection from the weather, so make sure you dress according to the forecast. From the seating, no one misses out on a great view of the show and narrative. John tells why and how he does what he does every day. He gives insight and information about the birds - all interspersed with a very dry and droll sense of humour. "I feel like a first-rate idiot with a seagull on my head," says John.
He talks about the behaviours and diets of these big beautiful birds - the largest of the pelican breeds in the world. They will eat just about anything - fish (obviously), your lunch, a stray pigeon and even small dogs. John said that he had heard of one swallowing a Chihuahua. I spoke to him afterwards and confirmed this as true - I know someone who saw that happen while on a fishing beach in Western Australia many years ago. The poor little pooch went straight down the pouch! I won't give away any more of John's very interesting and educational talk here - you'll just have to go and watch this wild bird interaction for yourself.
The birds are not relying on the food that John gives to them. Pelicans are very competent feeders in the wild - what John does each day is to give them a little treat. They trust and love him and we love him for bringing this show to us.
Be sure to bring your camera with you and be prepared to take a lot of photos and/or video. If you're keen on photography or just want to amaze your family and friends when you get home from your Kangaroo Island holiday, then this is one event that you need to get yourself to. It's brilliant fun for all the family.
There is no fee to watch the show, but those who take a seat are asked to make a $5 per person donation. The money keeps the show going all year round, even on the days when no people turn up to watch the show. On those days John will still come to the wharf to feed the pelicans - this ensures that the birds continue to show up during peak tourist season. Visitors are told that "if you don't make a donation, I think you are mean, miserable and shabby and you'll make me irritable". Goodness - who wants to be the person to make him grumpy? None of us want that! So please, go see this wonderful show and pop your dollars into his bag at the end of the show.