American White Pelican scratching its head – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/4000, ISO 640, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light
The radar/satellite was clear yesterday morning and it felt terrific to have two great days in a row to go out to photograph birds and yesterday morning Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge was my destination. I could see that the refuge was positively glowing in golden light even from the interstate and I was hoping to see and photograph lots of birds.
Yesterday was my first opportunity this year to be able to take quality images of American White Pelicans in Definitive Alternate Plumage or as it is better known, breeding plumage.
I got out of the “mobile blind” and used the bumper of the vehicle to brace my lens against to take these images because the pelican was on the west side of the road and to turn the vehicle around would have taken too much time and/or scared the pelicans away. I was hidden by the vehicle by getting out on the driver’s side. The pelicans don’t mind the vehicles as much as they do people on foot.
This pelican seemed to have an itch and scratched its head.
American White Pelican in Definitive Alternate plumage with its bill open – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/5000, ISO 640, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light
American White Pelicans in Definitive Alternate plumage develop a fibrous epidermal plate on their upper mandibles about one third of the way up their bills, some people call them caruncles or horns and they are thought to be sexual ornamentation. This pelican’s “horn” shows well in this frame where the pelican opened its bill and shows the bluish-gray eye color off nicely too.
American White Pelican with bill wide open – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/8000, ISO 640, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light
I believe the pelican was simply yawning by opening its bill and pouch at this point or it could have been stretching its pouch.
American White Pelican in Definitive Alternate plumage – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/6400, ISO 640, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light
Some of the other pelicans near this one took flight and headed slight north about the time I took this photo and I wondered if this bird would follow them…
Adult American White Pelican crouching to lift off – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/6400, ISO 640, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light
And it did just a few frames later. I was close enough that I knew I’d clip wings and body parts when it lifted off with my teleconverter on but knew I wouldn’t have time to take it off, sure enough two frames after this one I was clipping wing tips!
I also took a tumble right after this pelican lifted off when I tried to stand up from my kneeling position. I hugged my lens and camera to protect it as I fell backwards onto the ground and my rear end while laughing at myself. Everything is okay, the only thing bruised was… well my knee. I’m fine, my gear is fine.
Life is good.