White Pelicans in Flight. San Joaquin Valley, California. January 1, 2013. © Copyright 2013 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.
A flock of white pelicans crosses the marsh before landing at a San Joaquin Valley wildlife refuge
I believe that I have written in the past about the first time I saw white pelicans in the Central Valley of California. The preface to that story is that I somehow managed to live in this part of California for my whole life without realizing that this valley is filled with an amazing diversity of migratory wildlife every winter, so I’m still “discovering” things that many other take for granted. In any case, I was out in the valley at one of the wildlife refuges on a very foggy morning when it was impossible to see more than a few dozen feet into the murk. I could hear birds, but certainly not see them. I stopped and opened the window of the car to listen, and almost immediately a flock of large birds coasted silently into and out of sight. I was somewhat taken aback and thought for a moment that they “looked like pelicans,” but since I had no idea that such birds would be found here I dismissed the thought. Later that day my friends began to talk about seeing “white pelicans,” and later they showed me where a flock was resting on a small island in a marsh.
This flock arrived late in the day and was again unexpected. We had travelled to the edge a marsh to watch a large flock of Ross’s geese. They were settled in for the afternoon, but we knew that they would begin to fly out as the end of the day approached. This time it was almost completely clear, so it was easy to see this large flock of birds as it silently floated over the edge of the marsh – with almost no flapping of wings, in great contrast to the geese! This time I more quickly figured out what I was seeing and I photographed them as the crossed into the center of the marsh and landed.
G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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