Monthly Archives

January 2006

Photos of La Jolla Brown Pelicans

California, Natural World, Pelicans, Wildlife

See our Guide to Photographing Pelicans in La Jolla.

Bird photography seems like a rather sendentary pursuit. Compared to photographing tiger sharks or ocean sunfish, there is not much action during a bird photo shoot; what activity there is consists mostly of fooling with the tripod, applying sunscreen and chatting about equipment, travel, the quality of the light and where to get coffee once the birds have flown. Now that I have insulted a large number of photographers out there, let me add that good bird photography is in reality a hideously difficult pursuit. The masters of bird photography are some of the most skilled photographers around, with the patience of Job. Since I dive with seabirds and often have fine opportunities to observe them in and under the water, photography of seabirds in particular holds a certain appeal and I do pursue it from time to time. However, there is really only one bird that I have been able to photograph well, primarily because it is big, slow and I can get close to it: the pelican. Lately I have been testing the sharpness of a new 500mm lens, and since the surf has been flat the last few weeks my focus has had to shift from waves to seabirds (and elephant seals, more on that soon). In particular, I’ve been out shooting California brown pelicans in La Jolla. These birds are magnificient flyers found in a beautiful setting (La Jolla is the jewel of San Diego), have photogenic details, and honestly acquiring good photos of them is quite simple for any halfway experienced wildlife photographer.

Brown pelican in flight.  The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status.  In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage.
Image ID: 15122
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican.  This large seabird has a wingspan over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status, due largely to predation in the early 1900s and to decades of poor reproduction caused by DDT poisoning.  In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage with brown neck, yellow and white head and bright red gular throat pouch, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Brown pelican. This large seabird has a wingspan over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status, due largely to predation in the early 1900s and to decades of poor reproduction caused by DDT poisoning. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage with brown neck, yellow and white head and bright red gular throat pouch.
Image ID: 15123
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican head throw.  During a bill throw, the pelican arches its neck back, lifting its large bill upward and stretching its throat pouch, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican head throw. During a bill throw, the pelican arches its neck back, lifting its large bill upward and stretching its throat pouch.
Image ID: 15124
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

La Jolla, California is a superb location to observe and photograph the California race of the brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus). The cliffs above the La Jolla caves, also known as Goldfish Point, are currently an established resting place for brown pelicans. In the 80’s and 90’s when I would visit La Jolla for a morning dive or swim but found the water conditions not to my liking, I would instead pay the pelicans a visit and spend time photographing them. In those days I would be the only person watching them, to the point that if I was patient and moved carefully I would eventually find myself among them, surrounded, with great ops using only an 80-200mm lens. In fact, I never encountered another photographer. These days, however, the word is apparently out on this opportunity among the bird lovers, since it is now typical to find groups of serious bird photographers lined up with huge lenses trained on the birds, some of which appear to be workshops or photography classes. Winter is a particularly good time to photograph brown pelicans as the males assume their breeding plumage: a striking dark brown neck to contrast with white and yellow head feathers and deep red-orange throat pouch below the bill. Mornings work well, since the pelicans can be photographed in flight, arriving from their morning flights to land on the rock, as well as resting and preening on the guano-covered knobs of rock at the top of the cliffs.

Brown pelican in flight.  The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status.  In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage.
Image ID: 15125
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican in flight.  The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. Long exposure shows motion as a blur. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status.  In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage with dark brown hindneck and bright red gular throat pouch, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. Long exposure shows motion as a blur. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage with dark brown hindneck and bright red gular throat pouch.
Image ID: 15134
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican.  This large seabird has a wingspan over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status, due largely to predation in the early 1900s and to decades of poor reproduction caused by DDT poisoning.  In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage with brown neck, yellow and white head and bright red gular throat pouch, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Brown pelican. This large seabird has a wingspan over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status, due largely to predation in the early 1900s and to decades of poor reproduction caused by DDT poisoning. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage with brown neck, yellow and white head and bright red gular throat pouch.
Image ID: 15128
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelicans inhabit coastal areas of North and South America, frequenting lagoons, sand flats, cliffs, marinas, piers and waterfronts. While they were classified as endangered throughout their range in 1970, the Atlantic coast population status was no longer considered endangered by 1985 (although the other regions are still.) Brown pelicans are rarely seen inland. The brown pelican is a large bird, reaching 4 ft. in length, weighs about 9 lbs. and has a wingspan over 7 ft. It is characterized by an enormous bill, longer than its head. Pelicans are superb divers, plummeting into the sea to grasp mouthfuls of small fish, requiring about 4 lbs. of fish each day to thrive. The skin pouch suspended from the lower bill holds as much as 3 gallons of water, and is used to trap and hold prey until the water can be released through the side of the mouth, at which time the bill is tipped up and the prey is swallowed. (The skin pouch also offers a way for the pelican to thermoregulate, in other words, cool itself during hot spells.) It should be noted that scientific studies show that pelicans do not compete with commercial fishing interests, in fact pelicans pursue species of fish not desired by the commercial fishing industry.

Brown pelican in flight.  The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status.  In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage.
Image ID: 15139
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican.  This large seabird has a wingspan over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status, due largely to predation in the early 1900s and to decades of poor reproduction caused by DDT poisoning.  In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage with brown neck, yellow and white head and bright red gular throat pouch, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Brown pelican. This large seabird has a wingspan over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status, due largely to predation in the early 1900s and to decades of poor reproduction caused by DDT poisoning. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage with brown neck, yellow and white head and bright red gular throat pouch.
Image ID: 15140
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican in flight.  The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status.  In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage.
Image ID: 15148
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Socially, brown pelicans roost together (male and female) and fly in dramatic single file or V formations, hunting during the day. Brown pelicans often perform an odd behaviour known as a head-throw, in which they crank their large bill up and backward, stretching out the skin pouch and straightening their neck. It looks quite painful. Brown pelicans create low, broad nests in which the females will lay 2-3 eggs each year. (I have not observed nests atop the La Jolla cliffs, probably due to human presence, but have seen many nests in neighboring islands and coastal areas of Baja California just to the south.) In the 1960’s, brown pelican populations dropped precariously due to DDT and other toxic pesticides that reached the pelicans through coastal runoff that was then absorbed through the food chain by plankton and small teleost fishes. The DDT caused pelican eggs to be so thin that the young would not survive. (Other bird species were affected by DDT in the same way.)

Brown pelican in flight.  The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. Long exposure shows motion as a blur. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status.  In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage with dark brown hindneck and bright red gular throat pouch, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. Long exposure shows motion as a blur. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage with dark brown hindneck and bright red gular throat pouch.
Image ID: 15136
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican in flight.  The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status.  In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage.
Image ID: 15126
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican head throw.  During a bill throw, the pelican arches its neck back, lifting its large bill upward and stretching its throat pouch, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican head throw. During a bill throw, the pelican arches its neck back, lifting its large bill upward and stretching its throat pouch.
Image ID: 15131
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

There are many web pages about brown pelicans, but I think the Audobon one is good.

As Seen On ABC Television’s Extreme Makeover : Home Edition

Uncategorized

Update: some of my dolphin photos are used to create the gigantic wall murals that surround 11-year old Jael’s dolphin themed bedroom, revealed in the final minutes of the program. The perspective of the room is that of a diver (or another dolphin), surrounded on all sides and below by blue Bahamian water, white sand and many dolphins. It looked pretty cool on the broadcast and I hope to see some photos of the room itself soon. We hope Jael Kirkwood likes her new room and gets a chance to swim with dolphins sometime.

Phillip Colla’s photography will be featured tonight during the January 15th, 2006 two-part episode of ABC Television’s Extreme Makeover : Home Edition. This show is apparently a big hit, although since we don’t watch television we don’t really know that for sure so we will have to check it out and see! We expect you to check it out too, you are going to watch, right? The show airs at 7/6c on Sunday, January 15, 2006 with the second episode at 8/7c.

Background: in November I received a phone call from one of the production managers of ABC Television’s Extreme Makeover : Home Edition, inquiring about our photographs. They must have found the photos on our web site since that is the only way anyone ever finds us to inquire about photographs as we do no marketing whatsoever, being averse to marketing. Long story short, we provided photography that will appear in the “secret room” that is featured at the end of the episode. We cannot reveal the details until after the show airs. We’ll just watch the show and see how it turns out (we don’t know yet), and we think you should too since the photography featured in it will be top notch. We are pretty sure Phil’s photography won’t appear until near the end, since it is part of the “secret room” that is only revealed at the end by Ty Pennington (the host of the show).

We especially send our very best wishes to the Kirkwood Family, who are the great family featured on tonight’s episode, and hope they thrive and are happy in their new home!

Here is a list of contributors to the Kirkwood Family’s new home.

Check it out: 7/6c Sunday January 15, 2006, 2 hrs. Tell ABC Television’s Extreme Makeover : Home Edition that you especially liked the photos. While we are not certain, we think that the program will actually air in two special back-to-back episodes. So tune in, meet the Kirkwood Family and see if you can spot Phil’s snaps.

By the way, if you are interested in having a room-sized mural of our photography created for your home, similar to what appears in Jael’s room in the Kirkland home, please contact Lynn Krinsky at Stella Color in Seattle. She can give you all the specifics and create the mural you are looking for:

Lynn Krinsky
Stella Color
416 Dexter Ave N
Seattle, WA 98109
lynn@stellacolor.com
PH: 206-223-2303
FX: 206-223-7005

Recent California Snaps

California

A few recent images. Click on any one to see others that are related.

Beach cliffs at Torrey Pines State Reserve:

Sandstone cliffs rise above the beach at Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego, California

Sandstone cliffs rise above the beach at Torrey Pines State Reserve.
Image ID: 14725
Location: Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego, California, USA

Broken Hill at Torrey Pines State Reserve:

Broken Hill with the Pacific Ocean in the distance.  Broken Hill is an ancient, compacted sand dune that was uplifted to its present location and is now eroding, Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego, California

Broken Hill with the Pacific Ocean in the distance. Broken Hill is an ancient, compacted sand dune that was uplifted to its present location and is now eroding.
Image ID: 14762
Location: Torrey Pines State Reserve, San Diego, California, USA

UCSD Central Library:

UCSD Library glows at sunset (Geisel Library, UCSD Central Library), University of California, San Diego, La Jolla

UCSD Library glows at sunset (Geisel Library, UCSD Central Library).
Image ID: 14783
Location: University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, USA

Big Sur Coastline:

Waves blur as they break over the rocky shoreline of Big Sur

Waves blur as they break over the rocky shoreline of Big Sur.
Image ID: 14904
Location: Big Sur, California, USA

Pacific Grove Coastline:

Waves breaking over rocks appear as a foggy mist in this time exposure.  Pacific Grove, Lovers Point

Waves breaking over rocks appear as a foggy mist in this time exposure. Pacific Grove.
Image ID: 14908
Location: Lovers Point, Pacific Grove, California, USA

Monterey Bay Aquarium, Mackerel:

Pacific mackerel.  Long exposure shows motion as blur.  Mackerel are some of the fastest fishes in the ocean, with smooth streamlined torpedo-shaped bodies, they can swim hundreds of miles in a year, Scomber japonicus

Pacific mackerel. Long exposure shows motion as blur. Mackerel are some of the fastest fishes in the ocean, with smooth streamlined torpedo-shaped bodies, they can swim hundreds of miles in a year.
Image ID: 14926
Species: Pacific mackerel, Scomber japonicus

Monterey Bay Aquarium, Anemone:

Fish-eating anemone, Urticina piscivora

Fish-eating anemone.
Image ID: 14940
Species: Fish-eating anemone, Urticina piscivora

Atop Haleakala

Hawaii

We used to spend 6-8 weeks in Maui each winter as part of a humpback whale research team. One of the fringe benefits of that work was a chance to make a trip to the summit of Haleakala volcano each year, the mass of which comprises most of the island of Maui. Since people seem to have a thing about seeing the sunrise from Haleakala, and the road-clogging bike tour groups coming down the two-lane mountain road are scheduled in the morning, we avoid the crowds and instead visit Haleakala in the late afternoon (after having lunch at the Kula Lodge, which has unrivaled views). Here Tracy takes in the endless view from the rim of Haleakala, above the clouds, as the sun drops in the West. A motivational/inspirational website just licensed this image, good choice.

Atop Haleakala volcano, Maui

Atop Haleakala volcano.
Image ID: 05609
Location: Maui, Hawaii, USA

More Haleakala photos.