Pelican stare-down

To end the three-day weekend in style, I loaded up the kayak and headed down to Elkhorn Slough with the Nikon DSLR in its waterproof bag. If it’s not too windy out, then it works to take the good (read: expensive) camera paddling and bring it out once I’m in the back channels where there’s less chop and wind. I was hoping to get a few photographs as the tide came up but overall, the birds were somewhere else, except for a few skittish sandpipers and a very aloof blue heron who didn’t like the paddling paparazzi.

I headed back to the dock as the fog rolled in since I was starting to get a little cold and it was getting round about dinner time. Then I saw the pelican flying low over the water. Nothing skims the surface of the water like a pelican. As I was tracking him, frustrated at how far away he was from me, I realized there was another pelican between us, grooming on the left bank of the channel about 30 yards away.

I slowly paddled closer, then let the kayak drift down on him as I focused and shot as many images as I could. You never know what you’re going to get with a pelican – the dead-on stare of disdain, the “I’m going to ignore you” grooming, or the flight that signals the end of the photo session. I got a few stares and some ignoring-you positioning, although he mostly held his ground as my kayak moved slowly closer to him. Finally, after a dozen shots, he decided he’d had enough and took off, landing on the right bank.I let him go. He had posed enough for one day.

When I got home, I couldn’t wait to see if any of the shots had turned out as good as they looked in the viewfinder. This photo is the one that stood out from the rest. There’s nothing like the world-weary look of a pelican staring down yet another camera-toting paddler.


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