The Best Ever La Jolla Brown Pelican Winter Season Ever, Ever

By January 30, 2023February 4th, 2023Pelicans of La Jolla

I’m shooting the La Jolla pelicans often this winter; see recent blog posts about La Jolla Pelicans as well as a gallery of my favorite brown pelican photos.

In November I decided to spend a lot of time photographing the pelicans in La Jolla to see what a really dedicated effort would produce in the way of new images. It also gave me a chance to improve my bird photography skills leading up a brief trip to Bosque del Apache.  I am now looking back upon 2.5 months of images with a critical eye.  I am struck by how excellent it has been, easily the best winter I have experienced when it comes to the brown pelicans, a subject I am fond of and have spent a lot of time photographing over many years.  There have been quite a few days when there were hundreds of brown pelicans on Goldfish Point.  In November it was vasts numbers of juveniles — which is a good indication of the success of the most recent hatching cycle — along with a few adults in full breeding plumage.  In November and early December it was 80% juvies / 20% adults and I was alone every day.  Naturally the makeup transitioned to more adults in winter plumage in December and January, and other photographers started to appear. For the most part, every day I was down at the cliffs people were pretty well-behaved, giving the birds space and not spooking them.  The flight photography opportunities have been superb, and my use of a modern mirrorless camera allowed me to make a lot of keeper images.  Winds were usually offshore and there were more clear sunny mornings than not. Wave energy was often high, which causes the pelicans to land higher up on the cliffs which is better for photography. A spell of rainy weather in early January made for perfect conditions to shoot pelicans in soft portrait light, against cliffs and huge surf.  Sea lion bodysurfing occurred a few times in January, and the royal terns (another favorite subject of mine) have been more cooperative than I have ever seen in past years.  So, all in all a good winter of wildlife photography around La Jolla Cove, and its not over yet.  Here are some of my favorite pelican images assembled as collages in Lightroome. I may have another post or two about pelicans in February, but for now this summarizes the 2022/2023 pelican season well. Click any one to go big. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

Miscellaneous California brown pelican images, winter 2022/2023

California brown pelican portraits and head shots showing incredible variation in plumage among breeding and non-breeding winter adults, juveniles and immature birds, winter 2022/2023

California brown pelican flight images with wings fully extended, slowing to land on cliffs, winter 2022/2023

Head throws of the California brown pelican, winter 2022/2023

Photographs of California brown pelicans in flight, winter 2022/2023

Photographs of California brown pelicans preening, winter 2022/2023

Photographs of California brown pelicans jaw clapping, opening their mandibles, winter 2022/2023

Photographs of California brown pelicans including some good photos of pelican yoga, winter 2022/2023

Photographs of California brown pelicans, winter 2022/2023

Photographs of California brown pelicans, winter 2022/2023

About Phil Colla

I am a natural history photographer. I enjoy making compelling images in the ocean, on land, and in the air. I have maintained the Natural History Photography blog since 2005 and my searchable Natural History Photography Library since 1997. Here are some tear sheets and behind the scenes views. Thanks for looking!