Monthly Archives

March 2009

Seabird Entangled in Plastic

Environmental Problems, Pelicans

To add to my description from yesterday about the pelican entangled in a plastic bag, here is another view of the brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus) entangled in a plastic grocery bag. I did consider making a grab for the bird (gently of course), hoping I could restrain it long enough to pluck the bag off its neck, but the pelican’s location on the bluffs made it nearly impossible to reach.

A California brown pelican entangled in a plastic bag which is wrapped around its neck.  This unfortunate pelican probably became entangled in the bag by mistaking the floating plastic for food and diving on it, spearing it in such a way that the bag has lodged around the pelican's neck.  Plastic bags kill and injure untold numbers of marine animals each year, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

A California brown pelican entangled in a plastic bag which is wrapped around its neck. This unfortunate pelican probably became entangled in the bag by mistaking the floating plastic for food and diving on it, spearing it in such a way that the bag has lodged around the pelican’s neck. Plastic bags kill and injure untold numbers of marine animals each year.
Image ID: 22561
Species: Brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

See more brown pelican photos as well as our Guide to Photographing Pelicans in La Jolla.

Pelican Entangled in Plastic Bag

Environmental Problems, La Jolla, Pelicans

Discarded plastics and styrofoam are destroying our environment. They wreak havoc especially hard on marine wildlife. I recently came across a textbook example of how such trash can injure and kill in the form of this unfortunate brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus) which is entangled in what appears to be a plastic bag. I am reasonably certain it is the lightweight sort normally used at grocery stores. I have a good idea of how this predicament came to pass. Plastic bags blow in the wind until they reach the ocean, at which point they float. As these translucent bags drift along on ocean currents, they look like food to many marine animals. Pelicans typically dive from high in the air onto the prey, piercing the water like a spear. I think this pelican saw the plastic bag as it was foraging over the ocean, thought that the bag was some form of food, made a dive into the water and speared the bag with its beak. The pressure of the pelican driving into the water pushed the bag over the head and down the neck of the pelican, were it now sits like a deadly necklace. It appears that the pelican has, during its preening, bitten away quite a bit of the bag, and hopefully will make enough further progress on the bag that it eventually breaks free and the pelican is liberated. (I have a few other photos of marine animal entanglement, including a sea lion with monofiliment fishing line wrapped around its neck.)

A California brown pelican entangled in a plastic bag which is wrapped around its neck.  This unfortunate pelican probably became entangled in the bag by mistaking the floating plastic for food and diving on it, spearing it in such a way that the bag has lodged around the pelican's neck.  Plastic bags kill and injure untold numbers of marine animals each year, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

A California brown pelican entangled in a plastic bag which is wrapped around its neck. This unfortunate pelican probably became entangled in the bag by mistaking the floating plastic for food and diving on it, spearing it in such a way that the bag has lodged around the pelican’s neck. Plastic bags kill and injure untold numbers of marine animals each year.
Image ID: 22562
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

See more brown pelican photos as well as our Guide to Photographing Pelicans in La Jolla.

Marine Iguana, Galapagos

Galapagos Diaries, Marine Life

Skip found a marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) foraging on algae while we were freediving along the edge of Bartolome Island, and I got a shot of it, the only one I’ve ever seen in the Galapagos Islands underwater:

Marine iguana, underwater, forages for green algae that grows on the lava reef, Amblyrhynchus cristatus, Bartolome Island

Marine iguana, underwater, forages for green algae that grows on the lava reef.
Image ID: 16227
Species: Marine iguana, Amblyrhynchus cristatus
Location: Bartolome Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

See more marine iguana photos, photos of Amblyrhynchus cristatus and photos of the Galapagos Islands.

Bigeye Jacks, Galapagos

Galapagos Diaries, Marine Life

On our 2006 trip to the Galapagos Islands, we had some very good diving at Darwin Island: hammerheads, silky sharks and spotted eagle rays galore on the shoulder of the reef, with more than a few Galapagos fur seals, turtles and various schools of fish closer to shore. At the end of a late afternoon dive there, I was relaxing in the shallows gingerly sipping the last few PSI in my tank, spending as much time underwater before a lack of air forced me to ascend and call for the panga. There was a nice-sized school of bigeye jacks (Caranx sexfasciatus) whirling around me in the fading light. I tried making some artsy-fartsy strobe-blur photos and ended up with one I was happy with:

Bigeye trevally jacks, motion blur, schooling, Caranx sexfasciatus, Darwin Island

Bigeye trevally jacks, motion blur, schooling.
Image ID: 16347
Species: Bigeye jack, Caranx sexfasciatus
Location: Darwin Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

See more bigeye jack photos and Galapagos Islands photos.

Juvenile Frigate Bird, Galapagos

Galapagos Diaries

On the final day of our 1996 trip (my first) to the Galapagos Islands, we made a morning visit to North Seymour island. (Many Galapagos visitors walk ashore on North Seymour, it is one of the popular land visits due to its proximity to the airport on Baltra.) Uncertain that I would ever see the Galapagos again, the visit was particularly poignant as it was the conclusion of one of the most exciting trips I had had in my life to that point. It was also one of the first times I was able to see frigatebirds up close. This striking white-headed bird is a juvenile magnificent frigatebird (Fregata magnificens). the same species as the adult male that I mentioned a few days ago. It took me a while to confirm the identification; ultimately I relied on the characteristic blue ring around the bird’s eye. Fortunately, I was able to visit the Galapagos two more times with Skip (this photo of Skip was taken just a few moments after and a few yards away from the juvenile frigatebird photo), including once with Tracy, so have been able to see many more frigatebirds since I took this photo some years ago.

Magnificent frigatebird (note blue eye ring), juvenile, Fregata magnificens, North Seymour Island

Magnificent frigatebird (note blue eye ring), juvenile.
Image ID: 02271
Species: Magnificent frigatebird, Fregata magnificens
Location: North Seymour Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

See more frigatebird photos and Galapagos Islands photos.

Photo of Orange Cup Coral, Galapagos

Galapagos Diaries

On my first full day in the Galapagos Islands, in 1996, we made three great dives at Champion, Enderby and Devil’s Crown. I was on overload all day, surrounded by schools of fish and groups of Galapagos sea lions. After all that diving, plus a visit to Floreana to see flamingos, it was decided that we would return to Isla Champion for a night dive. I was pretty tired so decided to conserve my strength for our Hood visit the next morning and shoot macro subjects in shallow water. Sea lions were buzzing around me through the dive, leaving long glowing contrails of phosphorescent plankton in their wake as they zoomed by. The one photo I kept from the dive that night is this shot of two orange cup coral (Tubastrea coccinea) polyps, a common coraline invert that “blooms” at night.

Orange cup coral, Tubastrea coccinea, Isla Champion

Orange cup coral.
Image ID: 01858
Species: Orange cup coral, Tubastrea coccinea
Location: Isla Champion, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

See more Galapagos Islands photos.