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Where We Live by John Silveira and Richard Blunt. Photos and commentary from Oregon and New England.

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.



Pelicans of Oregon, Part 1

Monday, May 21st, 2012

Ever since I was a little boy, pelicans have reminded me of what pterodactyls were supposed to look like. I know, I’m not the first to say that. They look like something that accidentally crossed the K-T boundary that marks the extinction of the dinosaurs. Like many others, I’ve always found them to be funny looking – until last year, that is, when I began to photograph them. It was then that I began to think of them as beautiful, and even regal. There’s an imperious look to them even though they have an anachronic appearance. To me, they also look like they should be hopelessly awkward, however, they are anything but. When skimming over the waves, mere inches above the water, they are as graceful as any creature that ever roamed this earth, and when they’re diving out of the air from 50, 100 feet, or more, they do so with miraculous precision.

At the moment, I can’t decide which is my favorite bird: the osprey or the pelican. Both are hunters. The bald eagle, our national symbol, is more a combination of hunter, scavenger, and thief.  Ospreys are hunters and will also steal from each other. But pelicans are, as near as I can tell, pure hunters. They don’t scavenge and, though I’ve seen other birds try to steal from them, I have yet to see one try to steal from another.

Like ospreys, pelicans make dramatic dives to catch their prey. But, unlike ospreys, they can alight on the water and swim. Often, after they make their catch, they float on the waves and let the water drain from their bills.

There are eight species of pelicans and, though the brown pelicans, here along the coast of Oregon, are the smallest, they’re still pretty big birds. I’d love to, and will in the future, see other species.

I have frequently gone to the mouths of the Rogue and Chetco Rivers, here in southwestern Oregon, and watched the pelicans hunting in groups of 15 or 20 individuals. They’ll fly above those estuaries looking for fish and, when one sees a target,  it will suddenly roll over in the sky and plunge toward the water from 50, 100 feet, or more. They remind me of the World War II dive bombers I read about when I was a kid.

The following sequence was shot just the other day with my Canon 5D Mark III, using a Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Shutter speed 1/640     f-stop 8     ISO 250     focal length 400mm, for all photos in the sequence.

 

 

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