Pelicans of Hope – Photos

Brown pelican catching 'pogy' fish

Juvenile brown pelican feeding on 'pogy' fish off Rabbit Island, West Cove, Louisiana. (Photo by Gerry Ellis/Audubon/Minden Pictures)

Few creatures become so iconic to a state as the Brown Pelicans are to Louisiana.  In fact, few single images, save the Fleur-de-Lis, the graphically stylized lily or iris, illustrates this state.  So when the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster struck and the real threat of the escaping crude inundating the Gulf Coast within a week or two, the net-like coast of Louisiana was seen as bull’s eye of the target zone.  And staring out from the center of that target – the gawky cute, waddling Brown Pelican.

That icon covered in thick reddish-brown oil was the image no one wanted to see – everyone feared seeing – especially BP.  Almost immediately a rescue command center was established near Fort Jackson, LA (over time moved to Hammond) and despite the many stumbles in the process saved birds, cleaned and alive, have been put back into a safe site in the wild at Rabbit Island, West Cove, LA.  These images are from there and Raccoon Island to the east.  More details about “Pelicans of Hope” over on the general spill blog.

Special thanks to Tom Hess of Louisiana Dept of Wildlife & Fisheries and his crew for making these photos possible.

Immature Brown Pelican in flight

Immature Brown Pelican flying out to fish from rookery from Rabbit Island, West Cove, Louisiana. Photo: Canon 7D; @400mm f/10; 1/800sec; ISO400. (Photo by Gerry Ellis/Audubon/Minden Pictures)

Juvenile Brown Pelican

Juvenile Brown Pelican heading out to fish from rookery at Rabbit Island, West Cove, Louisiana. Photo: Canon 7D; @100mm f/8; 1/1600sec; ISO400. (Photo by Gerry Ellis/Audubon/Minden Pictures)

One of the serious challenges of photographing in these rookeries is the sensitivity to the birds.  These are young birds just learning to fly – and struggling at it in many cases – or older chicks still on the nest.  Disturbance at this critical stage could mean their death – and in the end an over eager photographer or researcher could end up killing more birds than the oil disaster.  To maintain distance and still get the critical observations in everything is accomplished by boat.  In these shallow waters wind and current bounce you around a lot, often chaotically.  Stable photography is a real struggle.  Lastly, the distance almost always dictates I hand-hold using 200mm and up lenses.  I’ve posted shooting details with each of the photos.

Flock of Brown Pelicans leaving Rabbit Island, Louisiana

Brown Pelicans heading out to fish for 'pogy' from rookery at Rabbit Island, West Cove, Louisiana. Photo: Canon 7D; @310mm f/8; 1/1600sec; ISO400. (Photo by Gerry Ellis/Audubon/Minden Pictures)

Brown Pelicans and Royal Terns on Raccoon Island with beached oil boom

Brown Pelicans and Royal Terns on Raccoon Island with beached oil boom, Gulf Coast Louisiana. Photo: Canon 7D; 400mm @f/11; 1/1600sec; ISO500. (Photo by Gerry Ellis/Audubon/Minden Pictures)

Juvenile Brown Pelican taking flight

For every juvenile Brown Pelican taking flight it seems like an arduous, miraculous event. Photo: Canon 7D; 400mm @f/11; 1/800sec; ISO400. (Photo by Gerry Ellis/Audubon/Minden Pictures)

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Seabirds, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s