Fishing Pelicans

wpid11743-AU0E1357.jpgThe pelican population of Elkhorn Slough is pretty substantial. There were a few white pelicans but the majority was brown pelicans. As we trundled around the slough, a steady stream of pelicans went about their business fishing. Watching pelicans fish is a reasonably predictable task. They glide around looking for the fish in a way that is very different from how they fly if they are trying to get somewhere.

wpid11747-AU0E1613.jpgAs they spot a fish, they slow up noticeably preparing for the dive. Then they roll in like a dive bomber head down towards the unsuspecting prey. At the last minute, they pull back their wings and extend their head to enter beak first and grab whatever it is that they have spotted. All that is left on the surface for a moment is the ripple from their entry. Then they bob back to the surface, hopefully devouring whatever they were after. Then they lumber back into the air to repeat the process.

wpid11749-AU0E1627.jpgWatching this is not tricky. Having it happen close enough to you to get a good shot is a different story. Even at the high frame rate my camera can do, the transition from dive to underwater is very quick and only a few frames. You have to try and track smoothly and keep everything in focus.

AU0E0773-EditAU0E1612-EditI got shots of some more distant entries. These don’t make the best shots but they can work as animated GIFs. Once or twice they came a bit closer to us and then it was just a case of hoping that I didn’t miss it while watching something else and that the light was on a good side. That and crossing my fingers that I didn’t screw it up!

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