A Pelican Landing Among Friends (and yesterday’s debacle in Box Elder County)

I rarely appreciate “accidental” birds in my photos competing with the primary subject. But there are exceptions and it happened twice with this landing American White Pelican.


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

Two days ago I spent some time at Farmington Bay WMA photographing pelicans. It was mostly cloudy with generally poor light for photography but it was the last day the refuge would be open to visitors until next fall so I made the trip largely to say goodbye.

A dark and threatening storm front was moving in from the northwest so flocks of pelicans began to fly into and land on the narrow canals for protection from the storm and I was able to photograph several of them on their approach. This one is coming in to join a loose flock of other pelicans already on the canal.



1/1600, 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

Surprisingly I’m ok with this second bird in the frame. For me its presence helps to tell the story and it’s far enough away in the background to be a little out of focus so it competes less with the primary bird. This image is full frame (uncropped).



1/1600, 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

Here I caught the pelican at the instant its left foot touched the water – before there’s even a hint of water spraying up behind it.



1/1600, 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

Then I caught the same bird water skiing past another of its friends. I like the way the pelican in the background is framed by the right wing of the foreground bird.


After so many cloudy days yesterday was one of the very few sunny days we’ve had for several months so we decided to trek all the way to Box Elder County for some chances at Golden Eagles and other raptors. But after driving for an hour to get there my “check engine light” came on at just about the time my pickup’s engine began running rough so I pulled off the freeway and limped about 10 miles to Brigham City and found a Ford dealer that would open about 40 minutes later (yes, we were there early).

To make a long story shorter, four hours and $600 later I was good to go. I needed new spark plugs and engine coils (there’s one on top of each spark plug) and I also replaced my battery which had seen its better days.

It was a disheartening experience to travel that far and spend that much money with no birds to show for my efforts. After the repair was finished we just turned around and headed for home.



The only saving grace was this wonderful antique Ford pickup the dealer had on the showroom floor. I’m a huge fan of Ford pickups (I’ve had 13 new ones over the years) and the old ones bring back fond memories of some of the old vehicles we had on the Montana farm where I grew up. The light in the showroom was awful for photography but I snapped a few photos anyway and spent considerable time inspecting this great old pickup which helped me to while away the hours.




Here’s another angle on this great old “historic vehicle”.



And hey, I can find birds anywhere! This is the radiator hood ornament on the pickup – a grouse in flight.

I felt vindicated!



33 comments to A Pelican Landing Among Friends (and yesterday’s debacle in Box Elder County)

  • Laura Culley

    I usually don’t reply to posts this late in the process (hands wouldn’t cooperate with the keyboard), but this one NEEDED an exception! What a gloriously spectacular series of shots with the pelican landing, water skiing, wing positions and all that with the other pelican in the background! Just WOWZER! And that WOZER also includes the photos of the historic Ford truck. I’m a Ford girl, too, and I got to help my uncle rebuild a ’33 Ford truck back in the day. What a fun experience!
    So sorry your Ford truck decided it needed parts. I hate it when they say “I’ll have one of those, two of those, oh and EIGHT of those!” Amazing how expensive car/truck repair has become, isn’t it?

  • Jane Chesebrough

    Great that you got those two birds without any merging. And trust you to find another bird on the car-funny!

  • Patty Chadwick

    What is a spark plug “coil”? Is it the wire attached to the top of each plug? I don’t remember seeing any “coils”…this is driving me nuts….picky, picky, picky….

    • Patty, In many modern vehicles there is no distributor and no spark plug wires. Each spark plug has its own coil on top of the plug. At least that’s how I understand it…

      • Patty Chadwick

        Guess I need to look under the hood more often…they do still have cylinders, pistons, feul pumps, water pumps and motors don’t they???? Last time I looked they had hamsters and squirrels….

        • Yup, they still have all those, Patty – although it’s usually referred to as an engine and not a motor. Motors are electrical (though I guess electric cars have motors…)

  • Love the photo-bombing pelican. And your orignal subject. I am so impressed that you captured ‘touch-down’.
    Sigh on the car troubles front.
    And hooray for that old Ford – and its hood ornament.

  • April Olson

    Pelicans are lovely.
    I am still chuckling about the check engine light. I had the same thing happen last time I was headed to BRMBR alone. Made it to Syracuse and the car started to run rough and the check engine light came on. I drove back to Salt Lake, it was the spark plug coil.
    You must be out this morning giving it a second try. Let us know what the flooding looks like up that way. I was going to try that direction Saturday or Sunday.

    • April, I went to the Promontory’s this morning – didn’t even try Bear River because I know that it’s still closed. No problem with the roads where I went.

  • Thomas Mast

    Thanks Ron for the great Pelican landings. have you had any of the “runnning on water” takoffs? they really intrigue me

  • Patty Chadwick

    I watch a TV program called “American Pickers”…a while back they bought an old pick up that one of the stars, Mike Wolfe, gave to his brother…For some reason, I fell in love with that truck, crazy old paint job and all! I LOVE the old cars and trucks…like any 1911 Maxwell, the WWII jeep I learned to drive in, a Toyota pick up we had but gave to a son-inlaw who needed a vehicle, and an old pick up one of my Lakota friends once had (and was crazy about., but gave to another guy who had no car). Strangely, I’ve never felt the same way about a new car…love the pelican series and shots of the old truck…hope yours behaves now…no new surprises…

    • Patty Chadwick

      For some reason, the floating pelican in the second frame reminds me of Bernie Sanders…I miss him!

      • Dick Harlow

        Patty, please don’t give up on Bernie, he’s still working hard, and we haven’t heard the last from him!

        • Marty K

          He did a special with Bill Nye on climate change. I haven’t seen it yet, but it should be interesting.

    • Patty, I learned to drive in a 49 Ford pickup. It was my dad’s theory that if I could learn to skillfully drive it I could drive just about anything. No synchromesh in the transmission of course so until I learned those gears were always shiny!

      • Patty Chadwick

        Becausecof my husband’s football/hockey kness we’ve had automatics for a long time, but I miss the regular clutch shifts…feels like more control, esp. In mud, snow,ice,sand and grass…

  • Susan Stone

    I love the hood ornament as a bird to photograph! It gave me a good chuckle. The Pelican shots are great, and I also like the second bird in both photos. It adds a nice touch.

  • Dick Harlow

    Great shots of the single and the other pelican! Particularly like the shots of just about to hit the water and hitting the water, very nice and sharp.
    Gee Ron, been there done that with vehicle breakdown and limping into the nearest garage! My problem, long time ago, was a universal joint of my truck camper in Canada. They were super with a very reasonable bill.
    I won’t go into details of another time when I’ve broken down and was taken to the cleaners.
    Glad your life line was fixed!

  • Marty K

    Wonderful pelican shots! I especially like the composition of the last one. It amazes me how graceful Pelicans can be; they look so klunky. I always enjoy watching them, especially when they “dive bomb” the water.

    Sorry to hear about your truck, but glad to hear that you were able to get it fixed right away. And what a great old pickup! I would have been all over that thing like a bad toupee.

  • Kelly C Stevens

    Nice work on the grouse, no clipped wings, perfectly framed, but I notice you left out the usual mention of “not baited or setup”… hum, it makes me suspicious ?

  • Judy Gusick

    Always something – one thing about the newer vehicles is having to afford the mechanic to go with it and the $$$$ involved for repairing (mostly replacing) the technology! 🙁 At least you didn’t have to be towed and the wonderful old pickup was a bit of a consolation.:) See it leaks a little oil :)Love the Pelican pictures and the unexpected second bird. 🙂

  • Hello Ron; If the diagnosis and replaced parts were accurate as you stated, thanks for the Ford Dealer info to avoid! Great photos of the White Pelicans

  • Charlotte Norton

    OH DEAR! That has to be a very frustrating experience. UGH! The Pelican pics and the old pickup are great. Bet there’s a story attached to the pickup. You made s bit of lemonade from the lemons!