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Posts Tagged ‘Beach Bird Photography’

Walking With the Winter Waves at Sylvan Beach

Posted by E.G.D. on December 31, 2014

All the cool birds hang out here.  (photo by E.G.D.)

All the cool birds hang out here. (photo by E.G.D.)

Sylvan Beach in La Porte, TX, always a treat in the warmer months, can be equally awesome in the winter.  The waves crash with a little more violence and froth, the seashells are as abundant as ever, the clean public restrooms are still open, and the birds are a heck of a lot bolder than they are when there are more people around.  The other day, the kids and I literally had a pelican fly right up to us.  I warned the kids “don’t touch it!  It’s a wild animal,” and it was so close that it was actually necessary to say that.  Liam held up his fingers in a square and said “CLICK!” but by the time I went back to the car for a camera, the blue guy who’d nearly landed on our feet was gone.  We saw a yellow one by the bait shop later, though, and I did get a picture of him.  Anyhow, the entire purpose of this article is actually to give the kids a bit of the limelight.  I invited Liam (currently a second grader) to write an article on his winter beach experience, and this is what he wrote:

We had a great time at the beach.  We collected shells and saw two pelicans.  It was cold and windy.  We also saw baby seagulls.  The ocean was trying to catch me, but it couldn’t.  My feet stayed dry.  The end.

Tada! The second pelican (photo by E.G.D.)

Tada! The second pelican (photo by E.G.D.)

Oona can only write her name without a reference, so she is going to dictate a story:

We collected shells.  We picked purple shells, and shells that are cool, and big shells, and clear shells, and it was a windy day.  I found, what is it called again? A sea bean.  I saw pelicans.  And we had a wonderful time.  And we went to the beach to also play in the sand.  At the water, the sand was cold and wet.  We had a nice time there, and I want to go again with Nana.  I hope we can go with Dadu, also.  We are going to do is making crafts out of the shells, like necklaces, and like paper and shells art, and coloring the shells on the paper with the shells.  We hope we have a nice time there again next time we go to the beach with Aunt Elisa.  I love the beach because it has the shells that I want to see.  The end.

Oona's shell collection from our winter day at Sylvan Beach (photo by E.G.D.)

Oona’s shell collection from our winter day at Sylvan Beach (photo by E.G.D.)

OH, THE GRAMMAR!  Oh, to be five again and not to specially care about grammar!  As you probably already surmised, I edited both for spelling, but not for grammar or syntax.  They are totally authentic.  In any case, Happy New Year, everybody!

Gray, but great (photo by E.G.D.)

Gray, but great (photo by E.G.D.)

See you at the beach- E.G.D.

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Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Birding, Gulf of Mexico Beaches, Seashells | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Beach Bird Watching (Looking into Looking Up)

Posted by E.G.D. on July 19, 2013

I was reading an article this morning about bird photography on the coast of Marco Island.  Apparently, at the island’s Tigertail Beach, that sort of thing is a serious spectator sport, in that not only did the journalist seem to be watching the birds, he seemed to be watching the photographers, and he seemed to expect his readers to be as interested in the photographers as in the birds.  He talked about the photographers and camera equipment, in fact, significantly more than he talked about the birds.  This makes journalistic sense, in that the article was published in the Marco Eagle, Marco’s local newspaper.

This brings me, in a roundabout way, to my point.  It seems to me that most beach-goers who are not bird photographers or birdwatchers are unlikely to go to the beach to seek out interesting avian life.  We flock to boat tours for whale watching, or dolphin spotting.  We squeal like children when we spot a sea turtle.  We go snorkeling or scuba diving to see interesting fish.  We brave the natural smelliness of seals to see them basking in the sun.  Is it just me, or do we spend most of our wildlife energy on the beaches in looking down?

I’m a sheller.  I’ll admit, I’m guilty as charged!

Beach Birding on the Texas Gulf Coast

Beach Birding on the Texas Gulf Coast

Why don’t we, for the sake of shaking up our usual beach routines, spend a little time enjoying the wildlife that occasionally goes up?  For those of you who are interested, here is a series of fun links concerning beach bird watching all over the U.S. :

Birding the Great Lakes Beaches (Tundra Swans, Bald Eagles and many more!):

Bird Watching at Waukegan Municipal Beach

Birding the Great Lakes Seaway Trail

Birding areas in the Great Lakes Bay Region

Birding the East Coast:

Birding Assateague Island National Seashore(Funny thing, I’ve actually been to this area, and I don’t remember a single bird.  Not because the birds weren’t there, but because I wasn’t looking!)

Space Coast Birding

Pacific Coast Beach Birding - Santa Cruz, California

West Coast Beach Birding – Santa Cruz, California

Birding the West Coast:

The Bird Guide (there are some good links on this site for the Pacific Northwest coast)

Focus on Birds

Bird Watching in San Diego

Birding Hawaii’s Shores:

Hawaiian Audobon

Gulf Of Mexico Beach Birding:

Alabama Gulf Coastal Birding Trail

Birds of the Upper Texas Coast

Cool, huh?  I’ve been looking up things to look up at all morning, and actually, most of them seem to spend quite a lot of their time wading.  Still, aren’t they fun?  Enjoy! -E.G.D.

~~~ Originally published Jul 27, 2011 ~~~

Please feel free to share your coastal bird watching experiences and/or your favorite beach birding site!

Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Birding, Beaches of North America, Inland Shores | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Brown Pelican: a Skimming, Soaring, Diving Treat for Coastal Birdwatchers

Posted by Greg on February 8, 2012

When Jody and I walk on beaches or  piers, we’re often mesmerized by pelicans. They are amazing and graceful fliers. It’s so much fun to watch a formation of pelicans glide inches from the surface of the water or soar through the air. Occasionally you’ll see a pelican dive, and if you do, you know you’re seeing a Brown Pelican. The Brown Pelican is the only species of pelican that dives, from as high as 30 feet, into the water to catch its prey, and it features front-side internal air pouches to give it buoyancy and to cushion the impact of the water (like an inflatable life raft and air bags in one).

Venice Pier, California. (Photo ©Jody Diehl)

Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) are large coastal birds with a body that is from 39 to 54 inches long and with a wingspan up to 79 inches. Their diet consists of mid-sized fish. Although they do eat sardines and anchovies, most of their prey are “trash fish,” meaning fish that have little commercial value. Being a large bird, a pelican needs about 4 pounds of food per day. They may be expert fishermen, but Brown Pelicans are also opportunistic and adaptive. You’ll find them hanging out on piers and fishing boats to get scraps.  The juvenile Brown Pelican, pictured above, was demonstrating this to us by perching near a number of fishermen on Venice Pier, California.  He wasn’t afraid, although a bit leery, when Jody approached him with her camera. He seemed a bit of a ham, actually, and we would swear he was posing.

Pelicans, of course, are known for their large bills with the pouch hanging down. The bird’s bill actually can hold more than its stomach: a 3 gallon bill vs. a 1 gallon stomach, which makes sense considering that quite a lot of what pelicans catch when they dive is actually water.  They need to float and drain the water off before they can swallow the fish whole.  During that draining process, sea gulls commonly try to steal their catch. Gulls have been known to perch on the heads or shoulders of pelicans to raid their bills of the fish.

Brown Pelican in Flight. Photo by Alan D. Wilson(Wikimedia Commons)

As for the areas where these birds can be found, according to The Smithsonian National Zoological Park, “Brown Pelicans breed from Anacapa Island, California south to Chile and from Maryland to Venezuela and Trinidad. After breeding, they may be seen as far north as British Columbia and Nova Scotia. They are the only species of pelican that is strictly marine in habitat, never found more than 20 miles out to sea or inland on fresh water. They prefer shallow inshore waters such as estuaries and bays.” There are five subspecies of the brown pelican. The United States is home to two subspecies. The California brown pelican (P. o. occidentalis californicus), is indigenous to the Southern California coast; and the eastern brown pelican (P. o. carolinensis), can be found on both the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts.

They’re quite a sight to see, whether inches from the water or higher in the air!

“A wonderful bird is the pelican, / His bill can hold more than his belican, / He can take in his beak, / Food enough for a week, / But I’m damned if I see how the helican.” (Dixon Merritt, circa 1910)

Posted in Beach and Coastal Wildlife, Beach Birding | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

 
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