Just Above Sunset
August 6, 2006 - Odd Birds

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Pelecanus occidentalis californicus -

The pelican is any of several very large water birds with a distinctive pouch under the beak belonging to the bird family Pelecanidae. Along with the darters, cormorants, gannets, boobies, frigatebirds, and tropicbirds, they make up the order Pelecaniformes. Like other birds in that group, pelicans have all four toes webbed (they are totipalmate). Pelicans can be found on all continents - except Antarctica - in inland and coastal waters. You just won't find them in the polar regions, or the deep ocean way out at sea, or on oceanic islands, or anywhere in inland South America. Others that that they're there if you look.

These at the Malibu Creek lagoon, at the edge of the Pacific, just before noon on Wednesday, August 2, are Pelecanus occidentalis californicus - the California Brown Pelican. Along with the much larger American White Pelican - Pelecanus erythrorhynchos - the California Brown is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. The surf was up where the lagoon empties into the ocean, and there were maybe sixty surfers doing their thing. No one was paying attention to the pelicans, much less threatening them - these guys had nothing to worry about. And pelicans have been around for over forty million years. The surfers are transitory.

Make of this what you will -


In medieval Europe, the pelican was thought to be particularly attentive to her young, to the point of providing her own blood when no other food was available. As a result, the pelican became a symbol of the Passion of Jesus and of the Eucharist. It also became a symbol in bestiaries for self-sacrifice, and was used in heraldry ("a pelican in her piety" or "a pelican vulning (wounding) herself"). Another version of this is that the Pelican used to kill its young and then resurrect them with its blood, this being analogous to the sacrifice of Jesus.


That aside, this is a technical exercise - using the 70-300mm telephoto lens set to manual focus, and the automatic shooting mode set to sport (fast shutter speed and whatever else the D-70 does there), the idea was to keep far enough away from the birds so they weren't spooked, but to capture as much detail as possible, so you get a sense of what they're really like. Out here you usually see them from a distance, flying in a line above the surf, or plunge-diving solo for a quick bite of something herring-like. That's not good enough - you have to get up close and personal, relatively speaking. 

Pelecanus occidentalis californicus -

Pelecanus occidentalis californicus -

Pelecanus occidentalis californicus -

Pelecanus occidentalis californicus -

Pelecanus occidentalis californicus -

If you use any of these photos for commercial purposes I assume you'll discuss that with me

These were shot with a Nikon D70 - using lens (1) AF-S Nikkor 18-70 mm 1:35-4.5G ED, or (2) AF Nikkor 70-300mm telephoto, or after 5 June 2006, (3) AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor, 55-200 mm f/4-5.6G ED. They were modified for web posting using Adobe Photoshop 7.0

The original large-format raw files are available upon request.

Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik

The inclusion of any text from others is quotation for the purpose of illustration and commentary, as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law.  See the Legal Notice Regarding Fair Use for the relevant citation.
Timestamp for this version of this issue below (Pacific Time) -

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