Every year I have ambivalent feelings about the arrival of March 1. It signifies another step toward the return of spring birds and the color green but it also means that I’ll be unable to access Farmington Bay WMA for many months. Almost the entirety of the refuge closes to visitors on March I for the breeding season and it won’t reopen again until late fall, several weeks before the beginning of duck hunting season.
So late yesterday afternoon when a brief opening in the clouds appeared I headed to Farmington to say goodbye. By the time I got there (it’s a 35+ minute drive for me) that blue “sucker hole” in the clouds had pretty much disappeared but I made the tour anyway. And I’m glad I did because despite the dismal light American White Pelicans saved the day.
I thought regular readers might enjoy seeing this photo because it shows several “landmarks” that should be familiar to them. I often refer to the “owl bridge” and part of that bridge can barely be seen just to the right of the yellow and black sign at the right of the frame. Most of us call it the owl bridge because of the two plastic Great Horned Owls we can see at the top weather station next to the bridge. Not long ago I posted a photo of a kestrel perched on the head of one of those owls. And just recently I posted several photos of a subadult Bald Eagle perched on top of the bat box we see on top of the pole near the center of the frame.
When I took this shot I was on my way home after being mostly skunked, largely because of poor light. On impulse I stopped my truck just to watch the pelicans we see on the canal. I wasn’t tempted to photograph them because they weren’t doing much of anything interesting and besides there was already another photographer (in the dark pickup) parked in the best spot. I’d only seen a single pelican in flight during the entire 70 minutes I’d been at the refuge and flight shots of pelicans would be my greatest interest.
But suddenly things began to morph into a very interesting situation.
A dark and menacing storm front was moving in very quickly from the northwest and I suddenly began to see groups of pelicans in flight. Lots of them! If you squint you can see one of the first of those groups just above the horizon at left-center of the frame. I knew what was happening – hundreds of pelicans that had been feeding far out in the large, unprotected impoundments were aware of the approaching storm and were coming in to land on the narrow canals where they’d be more protected from the storm when it hit.
So I pulled over to the side of the road and waited for some of them to land here because I was after flight shots, especially with those dark storm clouds in the background.
When a bird lands on water why don’t we call it “watering” instead of “landing”? Sorry about that – rhetorical question… 🙂
1/1250, f/6.3, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in
When a large, lumbering pelican comes in to land it’s usually a slow, gliding process without much wing-flapping so most photos of it are similar but I caught this one in a banking posture I like. That heavy body (16+ pounds – think of your Thanksgiving turkey) has a lot of inertia so they lower their legs and spread their webbed toes to help slow them down.
1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in
I caught this one practicing its surfing skills.
I got quite a few shots that I think I’m going to like but so far I’ve only had time to glance at them (I didn’t get home until very late in the day and reviewing, culling and processing images takes time – lots of it). I’ll likely post more of them in the future.
I’m gonna miss Farmington. I always do…