When I observe birds flying and swimming in formation, I often think of synchronized dancers performing on stage or marching bands, but then I realize that humans are the ones imitating nature. We wear uniforms or dance costumes, so we will look as similar as two birds of the same species, right?
When photographing wildlife, you can’t plan this. You just have to be patient enough to sit and wait, following your subject and continually adjusting your focus. Note: something really cool usually happens after you pack up your tripod and start walking back to the car!
These White Pelicans reminded me of swans as I watched them forage together and look like mirror images of each other. As these three swam away from me and kicked up ripples on the surface, they looked back toward the camera.
White Pelicans are true “snow birds,” as they migrate to Southwest Florida in winter from the Great Lakes region. Dozens of them return to Sanibel Island every year.
Have you heard of a “rookery island” where dozens of birds of several species flock at sunset to find sanctuary for the night? I have found it magical to observe: as one great egret and eight ibis and three cormorants and six pelicans and a couple great blue heron and even more and more soar in from every direction and land side by side on every available branch of a tiny island of mangrove trees as the sun turns a brilliant orange and the light rapidly fades across the water… and the scene is silent.
I described the scene to my uninitiated friends as a Christmas tree fully decorated with ornaments on every bough, or a crowded church were a few more families arrive late and say, “please make room for us.”
Low tide is the perfect time to observe White Pelicans, Brown Pelicans, Great Egrets, Blue Heron and Ibis foraging on Sanibel Island. If you are lucky, you might even see some Roseate Spoonbills. Dozens of these beautiful birds crowded an area where the fish seemed to be concentrated.
The White Pelicans are literally “snow birds” who have flown south to Florida from the northern reaches of the United States for a respite from winter.
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.
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.
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?
If this sounds like a good title of a children’s book, you think like I do. I would like to write a sequel to “Goodnight Moon,” and use my photos of pelicans getting ready to say “good night.”
This close up photograph shows a pelican landing to join many others settling in for the night on a rookery island near Naples, Florida. They can rest and refresh themselves here, safe from raccoons and other land-based prey. This image was taken just minutes before sunset.