The Pelicans of Fort Myers

Against all my internal warnings I opted to head out to do some Black Friday shopping earlier in the morning.  I put full blame on Linda.  She was the catalyst for this insanity and she only made part of the overall excursion.  It all started at 10:30pm Thanksgiving night when we gathered around the table for our annual perusal of the ads to see what the hot deals were this year and more importantly, compile wish lists for others.  At midnight Linda puts the option on the table that if we headed to Target we could get a big jump on gifts for our relatives based on a positive assessment of their ad.  We had just come from a trip to see the family earlier in the evening and I got a 6.5 mile run on the treadmill after that .. so sure, why not.  By the time we got back it was 2:30am (we hit BB while we were at it).  Home Depot opened their doors at 5:00am meaning there was really only 2 hours before I would have to leave the house to get there.  Not really tired yet I opted to do that and hit Menards as well – mainly to buy gifts for Linda to give me for Xmas.  Those adventures could probably be a post all by themselves (and they likely will), but let’s just say I rocked it, getting essentially everything on my list!  Once again Linda owes me (anyone keeping track .. besides myself).  The best part of it, I used the 2 hour wait to crank out the last set of pictures for the November quota.  My drive is still being restored thanks to the crash but had these images lying around from the UB 2013 prep (link here).

On this last post for November, I introduce you to the Brown Pelican.
Brown Pelican shot in Fort Myers, Florida

These first two shots were in the running for the UB competition but I am pretty sure I opted against entering them in favor of what I thought were better candidates.  The courting Willets on the shoreline that were entered that year were from the same shoot.  My brother Ron and I were down in Fort Myers, Florida to drive my parents back from their Winter stay.  A couple of birding references indicated there was a lagoon nearby that was fantastic for bird shooting.  Just meant hauling the 80-200 glass down there to see what they had to offer.  It did not disappoint.  There will be a multi-post series on the results from that trip as soon as my drive gets restored, but consider this a teaser.  Admittedly, we had our doubts while trying to locate the lagoon since it a) isn’t marked and b) is tucked behind hotels lining the shoreline.  Sure enough, when we followed the source’s directions we ended up standing on a lagoon teeming with wildlife.  Ospreys, crabs, Herons, Gulls and Egrets were abundant – all hanging out around or hunting for fish in the lagoon.  My Father rightfully warned us about the potential presence of alligators but we never encountered one (bummer).

Brown Pelican shot in Fort Myers, Florida

Hit the jump and read more about this intriguing bird.

After taking a card full of shots in that area, my brother and father headed back to the car – it was pretty hot out.  I ventured further around the lagoon and spotted a sandbar that would allow me to get to backside where I was hoping to get better shots of the diving Ospreys.  That didn’t work out too well due to being stymied by another lagoon on the backside.  No problem, turns out this put me right on the gulf’s shoreline which was loaded with prime targets all conditioned to people walking the beaches … translated – one awesome opportunity to expand the portfolio.  As you can tell from the shots above, they had no problem with me getting as close as I wanted to be with the zoom glass – they kept their attention on local fishermen that would toss them unwanted fish that ventured on their lines.  Note, I have no idea what they were actually fishing for, but every once in awhile they’d toss something toward the shoreline and a lucky Egret or Pelican would snatch it up.  See, we can all get along in this small world.

There was also a constant supply of birds in flight once all the land targets were captured.  I have never seen Brown Pelicans before so a lot of my attention was trying to capture all aspects of this fairly large bird.  From the side, from the back, from the front, from the top and yes, even from the bottom.

Brown Pelican shot in Fort Myers, Florida

To say I captured every angle of this species would be an understatement.  There are plenty of additional shots that will show up in the future, but these in particular were the first pass keepers and some of my favorite bird shots overall.  This trip also gave me a chance to extend some pointers to my brother on the various techniques for shooting birds.  He taught me everything I know about film photography back in my high school/college days – now my turn to introduce him to the digital world and those somewhat tedious birds in flight shots.  Also allows me to take some credit for the awesome bird shots he took in Australia this year – although we need to brush up a bit on the subject of changing ISOs to get the shutter speed needed to tack sharp the birds in motion opportunities.  Amazing the progress from those initial Florida shots and the recent shots he put up on his gallery –  looking forward to dragging him out of his warm house this year to take on those Snowy Owls.

Brown Pelican shot in Fort Myers, Florida

So, I’ll finish with some interesting facts about the Brown Pelican.  First off, these birds even make Ospreys look like fish hunting wimps.  I witnessed the Pelican feeding ritual firsthand while on a Texas Gulf birding trip (another series that is destined to make its way on the blog).  At first I was not sure what all the commotion was a ways off shore – just kept hearing loud popping noises.  Eventually the source was identified.  These birds circle up to decent height, fold their wings back and plunge themselves into the water.  Cornell implied that this stuns the small fish in that area allowing the Pelican to scoop them up in their pouches.   From my observation, they would rest a bit by floating about on the water and then repeat the process.  Highly recommend you get a chance to experience this hunting approach especially if you think the Osprey is quite the show.  Pesticides impacted their incubation process in the unregulated 60’s and 70’s causing a significant drop in numbers.  Thanks to pesticide regulations they have made a full comeback – Yeah said the mosquitoes.   Their pouches can hold around 2.5 gallons of water and, unfortunately, are subject to entanglement in old fishing line which kills an estimated 700 a year in Florida alone.  According to our friends over at Wikipedia, the Brown species is the smallest of the eight species of Pelicans – hard to believe that fact having  been up close and personal with them.  They can eat up to 4 lbs of fish a day.   Lastly, they are the state bird of Louisiana – I did not know that.

Of course, the best part of the post is I can officially check the Brown Pelican off my bird list – Yeah!  Have a good one everyone, Hope to see you all back here again for next month’s output.


3 thoughts on “The Pelicans of Fort Myers”

  1. Boy, oh boy, I was just ready to repeat my oft-told claim that I took ALL the photos in Fort Meyers on your cameras, when you say nice things about my Australia pics. How nice. And crafty. I guess I’ll let this go, particularly since I’m about to upload photos of mine from that lagoon the next year.

    Nice pictures all around. Yes, I could improve my photos of birds in flight if I actually ever used the ISO setting. I did start doing that last fall but didn’t have many opportunities.

    BTW, Dad never warned ME about any alligators!



  2. kind, clever or maybe devious knowing you would likely take that action?

    didn’t have many opportunities to take pictures or didn’t have many opportunities to use ISO settings? (the latter seems unlikely to me seeing as how it should be leveraged on EVERY shot you ever take)

    Well, technically at that time you might have still been #3 but I’m sure you would get plenty of warning these days.


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