In early December we visited our son John in Southern California. He treated us to a whale watch cruise on a boat docked at Balboa Peninsula, and before we were underway, we were able to do some shorebird watching. The most interesting to me were the Brown Pelicans. They were seen both in the water and flying over the water but, alas, I was not able to photograph them in either situation. However, many of the pelicans were happy to hang around on shore, providing easy photo-ups.
Here is a photo of one all curled up on the dock. In this pose I think it looks more like a dog than a bird.
These Brown Pelicans are members of the subspecies known as the California Brown Pelican. One characteristic of the subspecies is the bright red color of the pouch during breeding season. As our boat left the dock, I looked back and saw a pair of pelicans at the edge of a roof near the water. The red pouch is very visible on the bird to the left. Do the pelicans breed on rooftops? (I understand stranger things than that happen in Southern California.)
As we left Newport Harbor to enter the Pacific Ocean, Brown Pelicans and other birds were observed perched on one of the jetties. This was a stretch for my 100-400mm lens, but you may notice several Heermann’s Seagulls and a Brandt’s Cormorant on the right.
As we cruised the Pacific, at one point a Brown Pelican flew in circles around our boat. It was so close to the water surface that its wing tips often dipped into the water on the downstroke. Its flight encircled the boat at least ten times. Perhaps the bird expected the boat to stir fish to the surface; however, I never observed it dipping its beak into the water. I really wanted a photo of that behavior, but the boat was pitching enough that I couldn’t even keep the pelican in my viewfinder, much less focus on it.
Although there were no whales or dolphins to be seen that afternoon, we really enjoyed our cruise on the beautiful Pacific. Our gratitude goes to John.
The map below shows the sites of the above photos. Hover your mouse pointer over the red markers to view their locations.