Brown Pelican Yoga

Watching and waiting, and watching and waiting some more is a practice that is rewarding in wildlife photography. As you will see here, some behaviors happen so fast, that a photographer will only capture them if he or she is already poised to shoot.

Not much happening here: two brown pelicans preening their feathers in Ding Darling National Wildlife Preserve on Sanibel Island, Florida.
Whoa! One Brown Pelican stretches its neck to give me a good view of its pouch.
Brown Pelican stretches his neck even further! What a moment.
Final image in the surprising series of Brown Pelican yoga.

White Pelicans in Flight

#whitepelican, #pelican, #flying, #inflight, #wings, #sky, #howto, #nikon, #tamron
White Pelicans soar above Sanibel Island, showing their black wingtips. Their wingspan is the second largest for a bird in North America.

It’s certainly a challenge to photograph birds in flight. Your shutter speed must be fast enough (1/1000 second) and your depth of field sufficient to keep the birds in focus (f/20), as they won’t stop for you to capture your photograph. I used an ISO of 800 on a bright sunny day, to allow me to shorten the shutter speed and dial down the aperture. It helps if the birds are flying roughly parallel to your focal plane, rather than toward or away from you. And it takes practice. These beautiful birds look amazing as they come in for a landing, too.

3-2-1 — Contact. Back to the White Pelican Squadron on the sandbar.

Brown Pelican in Action

I have often tried to photograph the Brown Pelican in action: taking off, landing, flying, fishing but they are so fast moving that it is difficult to track, focus and release the shutter in time to capture a crisp image. But you know what they say: stick with it, and “luck comes to the well prepared” photographer.

#brownpelican, #pelican, #dingdarling, #sanibel, #birdphotography, #howto, #travel, #travelphotography, #nikon, #tamron, #manfrotto
With my Nikon D800 (with 600mm of glass) mounted on a tripod and focus fixed on this Brown Pelican, I captured this image of his outstretched wings.

I have always loved the Brown Pelican, because their grace belies their large stocky body, and they are quiet birds who frequent the beach. It is fascinating to watch them dive-bomb fish by careening straight down into the ocean to stun the fish and later scoop them up in their large beak, letting the whole fish glide into their ample pouch.

After a brief stop on the sandbar, off the Brown Pelican goes again, revealing another view of those huge wings.

This bird photography adventure took place at the J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Florida.

Personal Space

Word on the street is that these White Pelicans migrated to Florida from the Great Lakes region.  Anyone who has driven that distance can appreciate how long that journey is. While they have flown a long way from home, they enjoy huddling together, wing to wing, beak to beak on this sunny evening.

#pelicans, #whitepelican, #pelican, #sanibel, #dingdarling, #florida, #southwestflorida, #birds, #sunset, #flock, #nature, #birdphotography, #wildlife
This flock of White Pelicans on Sanibel Island, Florida doesn’t mind standing in a tight pack on a sandbar just before sunset.

Wake Up Call

After breakfast, at low tide and warmed by the sun, these white pelicans decided conditions were perfect for a morning nap. Until one male pelican arrived and cried out to all of them, “Wake Up!”

#whitepelicans, #pelican, #sanibel, #dingdarling, #morningnap, #wakeup, #wakeupcall, #nikon, #tamron, #RRS, #nature, #behavior
From my perspective, this one male pelican seems to say, “Wake up, you guys!” I’m not sure the relaxed birds are convinced, as they only open their eyes.

The J.N. Ding Darling Nature Preserve on Sanibel Island, Florida is a wonderful place to observe the White Pelicans, Great Egrets, Great Blue Heron and Roseate Spoonbills in the winter months.

One Happy Crowd

These White Pelicans can fly and float anywhere they like, but they all seem pretty happy to crowd onto a tiny sandbar, wing to wing with one another. This image shows only a third of the line of white pelicans gathered at J.N. Ding Darling Nature Preserve on a sunny Sunday morning.

#pelican, #whitepelican, #snowbirds, #white, #birds, #blueandwhite, #wildlife, #nature, #photography, #nikon, #tamron
Nature’s Way: Comfort and safety in numbers. A cozy morning on the sandbar in Sanibel Island, Florida.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flying in Formation

These two White Pelicans flying low and in unison as they come in for a landing remind me of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels performing in a summer air show. As a spectator, I find myself entranced by the tight formation and flying agility.

#pelicans, #dingdarling, #sanibel, #florida, #painting, #photography, #topaz, #nikon, #tamron
The stunning white pelicans found on Sanibel Island in February are skilled unison flyers.

Having captured this moment in a photograph, I realized that the simple yet striking composition and blue/white color combination would translate well into an oil painting. So, I used my digital paint box to create my best rendering. What do you think?