Dawn’s Early Light

February 18, 2019

Boat-tailed Grackle, Female

I got up before dawn yesterday morning to return to the nearby Crescent Lake Park for another shot at the ‘golden hour of photography’ (“…the first and last hour of sunlight in the day when the special quality of light yields particularly beautiful photographs.”). It really is amazing, I think, that you can return to the same spot over and over again, but it’s never quite the same—the light is different, the sounds change, the wildlife evolves. I stood in the same place for well over an hour yesterday and I never got bored. It doesn’t take long before the birds and the squirrels don’t even notice you’re there–and life goes on. Standing still is a great way to absorb the habits of the natural world.

Today, my favorite subject was the brown pelican. It’s such a beautiful bird– with all its color variations and regal bearing. I spent most of my time focused on just one bird who was so mesmerizing as he glided ever so slowly and calmly across the water– sometimes catching the sunlight, sometimes not.  

Brown Pelican later in the morning

As I stood there capturing dozens of pictures of the brown pelican, a large white pelican swam into view. I didn’t get a particularly good picture of the two of them, but I included it here to show their size difference. The white pelican is considerably larger than the brown, but how much larger? According to what I found online, Brown Pelicans weigh in at only 7-8 pounds while the white pelicans usually exceed twenty! White Pelicans are one of the largest birds in North America!

The giant White Pelican far outweighs the much smaller Brown Pelican!

The other interesting thing about these two birds is how they go about procuring food…

Brown Pelicans feed by plunging into the water, stunning small fish with the impact of their large bodies and scooping them up in their expandable throat pouches. American White Pelicans, on the other hand, cooperate when feeding. Sometimes, large groups gather in wetlands and coordinate their swimming to drive schooling fish toward the shallows. The pelicans can then easily scoop up these corralled fish from the water.

White Pelican
During the breeding season, both males and females develop a pronounced bump on the top of their large beaks. This conspicuous growth is shed by the end of the breeding season.
Better get your Pelicans in a row!

It’s really an amazing thing to watch the brown pelicans soar gracefully overhead and then torpedo themselves into the water to catch a fish, but since nobody was fishing on this particular morning, I have no pictures to illustrate.

In addition to the pelicans on the pond, there were all these other birds in the area–either in the water, on the shore or in the trees: pied billed grebes, black crowned night herons, wild parakeets, limpkins, great blue herons, Muscovy ducks and their babies, wood storks, boat tailed grackles, a loggerhead shrike, ibises, scaups, and a crested mallard (see my previous post A Duck with a Do at https://picturewalks.org/2019/02/08/a-duck-with-a-do/)

A Muscovy Duck coming in for a landing with a smile on his face!

For a very small city pond, Crescent ‘Lake’ has an amazing variety of  interesting birds!

Brown Pelican in the early morning light

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