Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 41 comments

Most of the birds that followed the Galveston-Bolivar ferry on October 7th were either gulls—two of which you saw a few posts back—or brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis), which you’re seeing now.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 15, 2019 at 4:28 PM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , ,

41 Responses

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  1. ‘A wonderful bird is the pelican.
    His bill can hold more than his belican.
    He can hold in his beak
    Enough food for a week,
    But I’m damned if I see how the helican.’
    Ogden Nash
    For someone who doesn’t do much bird photography you’ve posted some very nice shots.

    Steve Gingold

    November 15, 2019 at 4:54 PM

    • Thanks. Truth is I’ve been rather pleased at finally getting some good bird-in-flight pictures. The ferry ride, short as it was, gave me lots of subjects to try my luck with.

      While the limerick you cited is the kind of thing that Ogden Nash wrote, he didn’t write this one. The author of the original—which had two versions, neither of which exactly match what is often found on the Internet—was Dixon Lanier Merritt:


      Steve Schwartzman

      November 15, 2019 at 6:10 PM

      • I stand corrected.

        Steve Gingold

        November 15, 2019 at 6:28 PM

        • I’ve found plenty of incorrect attributions on the Internet—enough that I won’t copy a quotation unless I can confirm its source. Sometimes the incorrect version of a quotation or a source appears on the Internet a lot more often than the correct one, which can be hard to track down.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 15, 2019 at 6:44 PM

          • That’s a good point. But I think in this case I was just injecting some humor and not contributing a learned piece of writing. Sorry if I seem defensive. I’ve had several occasions today of being picked apart for things I’ve meant in jest and taken more seriously than intended.

            Regarding verification of what we find on the internet, there is this sound piece of advice: “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet just because there’s a picture with a quote next to it” Abraham Lincoln (with a picture of him next to the quote.

            Steve Gingold

            November 15, 2019 at 6:55 PM

            • Yeah, it can be hard to know what someone intended. I’m sorry you got misinterpreted several times in one day.

              Steve Schwartzman

              November 15, 2019 at 9:04 PM

  2. Love these shots of the brown pelican 🙂

    Ms. Liz

    November 15, 2019 at 5:43 PM

    • I was happy to capture the way the pelican’s wingtip feathers curve. That’s especially noticeable in the second picture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 15, 2019 at 6:12 PM

      • It’s like the bird is suspended in time and space. I was fascinated by the detail, how its action is so frozen that you’d almost think it was gliding along in this position rather than flapping its wings!

        Ms. Liz

        November 15, 2019 at 6:19 PM

        • I’m with you in your vision of time and space suspended. What made the illusion possible was a shutter speed of 1/1250 of a second.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 15, 2019 at 6:34 PM

  3. I love the poem Steve quoted (actually written by Dixon Lanier Merritt but widely attributed to Nash), but I have just as much fun with this snippet from Edward Lear’s “Pelican Chorus”:

    “Wing to wing we dance around,
    Stamping our feet with a flumpy sound,
    Opening our mouths as Pelicans ought,
    And this is the song we nighly snort;

    Ploffskin, Pluffskin, Pelican jee!
    We think no Birds so happy as we!
    Plumpskin, Ploshkin, Pelican jill!
    We think so then, and we thought so still!”

    Your birds look happy to me, and I’ll bet you were happy to capture such fine images, too. I’m intrigued by the hint of green in the second photo. I’ll bet it was reflected light from the ferry, or perhaps more likely the cars.


    November 15, 2019 at 6:55 PM

    • That’s a new one on me, and a good deal longer (24 lines in all) than the often-misattributed limerick. I like the exuberance in the last four lines you quoted, and the inverted tenses in “We think so then, and we thought so still!”

      I was indeed happy to get a few decent pelican pictures. I’ve looked at the traces of green in the original, and they aren’t uniform. I don’t know what caused them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 15, 2019 at 9:26 PM

  4. Stunning captures! These birds look prehistoric to me!


    November 15, 2019 at 7:43 PM

    • Thanks. These pelicans put on a pretty good show of living in the modern world, even to following the ferry.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 15, 2019 at 9:28 PM

  5. Absolutely marvelous! I do love pelicans. I’m always a bit surprised at how striated they are underneath.


    November 16, 2019 at 7:33 AM

    • Thanks. Your mention of striation somehow led me to look at the second picture and see the right wing’s trailing feathers as a piano keyboard.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 16, 2019 at 9:20 AM

  6. I still have to learn to capture a sharp image of a bird in flight. Your pelicans look great, Steve!

    Peter Klopp

    November 16, 2019 at 9:03 AM

    • I had more success on this ferry ride than ever before. Using a high shutter speed and panning to follow each bird worked well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 16, 2019 at 9:21 AM

  7. Fantastic shots! Never thought of pelicans as being majestic, but the top one seems so.

    Michael Scandling

    November 16, 2019 at 9:33 AM

  8. Wow, great shots !!!


    November 16, 2019 at 1:00 PM

  9. Great capture of the feathery details, Steve.


    November 16, 2019 at 9:53 PM

    • You’ve reminded me that some (many? most?) scientists believe that feathers originally appeared on dinosaurs as a way of retaining heat, and only later became a mechanism for flight.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 17, 2019 at 8:19 AM

  10. I don’t think pelicans are exactly beautiful, but their feathers certainly are, excellent shots.

    Robert Parker

    November 16, 2019 at 10:02 PM

    • These may be the most feather-revealing bird portraits I’ve ever made. Thank you, ferry.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 17, 2019 at 8:23 AM

  11. Of all the shore birds pelicans are my favorite. Great captures Steve!


    November 17, 2019 at 9:23 AM

  12. I’m a pelican fan … wonderful photos Steve


    November 20, 2019 at 12:30 PM

  13. Stunning!

    Regards Thom

    Thom Hickey

    November 21, 2019 at 4:09 PM

  14. A photo from underneath a pelican is a novel phenomenon – love it! They are just wonderful birds, aren’t they?


    November 24, 2019 at 11:54 AM

    • Like you, I appreciated the novelty of seeing a pelican from below. From your comment about pelicans being wonderful birds, I suspect you’re more familiar with them than I am. The four-hour drive from Austin to the coast was worth it because it brought unfamiliar things my way.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 24, 2019 at 3:37 PM

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