Tag Archives: pelican

Half Moon Bay

wpid12937-C59F6701.jpgSometimes it is hard to remember that there are places as pretty as Half Moon Bay within an hour of where we live. If the traffic is flowing, it really is a short trip to get there. I have been there a few times recently for various different reasons. While we had relatives visiting, I thought a day trip there would be a good idea. The weather was looking nice (which it hadn’t been for much of their visit) so getting to hang out near the ocean was worthwhile.

wpid12935-C59F6661.jpgThe harbor at the north end of the bay is a nice place to be. Aside from some nice refreshments at a café near the harbor, there is the shoreline to wander along. It is also a launching site for local fishermen and some of the crab pots were stacked up along the parking lot. They are colorful despite their functionality.

wpid12929-AU0E6294.jpgA short drive north of the harbor is a favorite spot of mine. It is a parking lot at the top of some cliffs. The parking lot is for a distillery that I have never visited. Whisky is not really my thing. However, the view over the ocean with the waves crashing in below combined with the wildlife that lives along the coast makes it a relaxing place to be. We had pelicans flying low along the surf and seals that seemed to be hanging out in the shallows. Not sure why they were there but I suspect it was easy to rest there out of the way of the sharks further out in the deeper water. We even got a squadron of pelicans running along the ridge near us just before we left. It was like I had booked them.

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!

Clear Lake Pelicans and Other Birds

wpid11703-AU0E2132.jpgIt wasn’t just planes that were flying over Clear Lake. While the splash in was the reason for me being there as discussed here, I also saw a lot of bird activity in between the planes. A few were flying along the shore and I got shots as they came by. However, at one point, a huge flock of pelicans appeared along the lake. I have no idea what prompted them all to fly at that time but I am really glad they did. Shooting images of large flocks of birds is sometimes tricky because framing the shot never really gives the impression that seeing them for real does. However, in this case, they were flying in echelon and got to a position where they were perfectly lined up for a photograph. I was surprised and happy in equal measure.

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wpid8262-C59F9758.jpgThe California coast provides a lot of different options for places to go to and things to see.  We decided to take a day trip along the coast south of the Bay Area and started out in Santa Cruz.  A little previous research had suggested some possible places of interest.  Unfortunately, the weather that had been forecast was a little optimistic.  However, even on a cloudy day, the ocean is a great place to be.

wpid8272-C59F9890.jpgWe arrived at one state beach and found an overlook that gave a view of the beach and a couple of rocky outcrops that were absolutely covered in pelicans.  Not only were they on the rocks but there were plenty of them soaring about the area as well.  Given how many were in the air, I suspect there wouldn’t have been enough space on the rocks for them all it once!

wpid8270-C59F9874.jpgThey would soar about in formation heading up and down the coast with our position being right under some of the flightpaths.  At a distance, gliding pelicans look great.  When they are just over your head, you become acutely aware of just how large they are and how, if they want to come where you are, you would be wise to move aside.

wpid8268-C59F9860.jpgThe formations flying around were fun to watch but almost as much fun was watching them landing on the rocks.  With a spot identified, a lot of wing activity was required to bring them to a halt where they wanted.  I could have stayed there for hours watching the fun.


wpid5280-AU0E2378.jpgI was out shooting with my friend Hayman in the San Francisco Bay area.  Our primary goals were aviation (of course) but one of the nice things about the Bay is that some cool wildlife also lives there.  I am always keen to see the pelicans that live there.  They will often be seen cruising along the shoreline.  Occasionally you will see them fishing as well.  The plunge into the water with wings folded back is very impressive.

wpid5276-AU0E2176.jpgI suspect if you grew up with them around, you wouldn’t be so bothered and maybe view them as nothing more than a larger seagull.  However, I didn’t grow up with them so they always get me interested.  This day wasn’t the best to try and shoot them but I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity whenever one (or more) flew by.  Hopefully I will be back in the Bay before too long and I might make an effort to focus on them for a change.


Bay Area Birds

A while back I was in in the Bay Area and was near SFO.  While the area is a good one for getting shots of the airliner traffic heading into the airport there, it is also a great spot for seeing some birds.  The tidal flats are a popular spot for a bunch of shoreline birds.  There are also some large birds like egrets that hang out there.

Pelicans are another type that show up pretty frequently.  Coyote Point is a good spot for the pelicans since they like to soar along the ridge formed by the point and come right past you.  I wasn’t there to specifically take pictures but I did manage to grab some of them as they came by.  Hummingbirds also hang out on the point but I didn’t get any shots of them this time.  However, there is always another chance!