Readers’ wildlife photos

Pelicans seem to be common in recent photos, probably because they’re both migrating and adorable. Reader Joe Dickinson sends us photos of two species; his notes are indented:

Here are some photos from a recent camping trip up the California coast north of San Francisco.

At Bodega Bay, I was photographing some American white pelicans (Pelicanus erythrorhynchos) in a typical in-line feeding formation when I noticed a flight of brown pelicans (Pekicanus occidentalis) coming up the bay.  Since these two species are seldom found even on the same body of water (the whites typically are inland and the browns along the coast) I thought it would be cool to catch the browns flying over the whites.  Well, that shot was hopelessly blurry but some of the browns proceeded to circle and land right by the whites, so I was able to get several nice side-by-side comparisons.

JAC: Why the in-line feeding formation? Are they herding fish or something?





Here are some whites coming in for a landing, nicely displaying the striking black primaries that are hidden when they are down on the water.


And at Bodega Head, a mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) is nicely silhouetted against the sky.


Further up the coast at MacKerricher State Park near Fort Bragg we found another oddity, at least in my experience.  On one specific rock that we walked by several times, we never saw fewer than a dozen black American oystercatchers (Haematopus bachmani).  Interestingly, we had visited the same spot two years ago and noticed the same thing – always large numbers of oystercatchers on exactly the same rock.

Below  are two clusters of six birds each seen at the same time on different parts of the rock.  A third similar cluster did not photograph well, but there were at least 18 individuals present at once.



Here, from two years ago, I count 25 individuals.


Here is a closer view of a single bird from a few years ago south of Santa Cruz.


And one more mammal, this time a California ground squirrel (Citellus beecheyi) on the cliff top  near oystercatcher rock, silhouetted against the ocean.



  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Okay, here goes…The Pelican

    What a marvelous bird is the pelican
    His beak can hold more than his belly can
    He can Hold in his beak
    Enough fish for a week
    But I’ll be damned if I know how the hell he can

  2. chris english
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Maybe the pelican’s shade attracts fish.When snorkeling I’ve often found more fish under a boat or raft.

  3. Jonathan Wallace
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    “Why the in-line feeding formation? Are they herding fish or something?”

    Cooperative fishing is a distinctive feature of pelican behaviour. On many occasions (though sadly not recently) I have watched African white pelicans Pelicanus onocrotalus in West Africa forming horseshoe shaped groups of individuals that swim forward together and dip their bills in remarkable synchrony. Presumably, this technique is, as you suggest, mutually beneficial to the group members by herding fish into readily exploited cluster.

  4. Diana MacPherson
    Posted October 12, 2016 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    The California Ground Squirrel is cute. I saw one of those in California once & was fascinated because it looked like the Gray Squirrels I’m used to seeing, but with spots!

  5. Posted October 12, 2016 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Yes, they herd fish. Fun to watch.

  6. Posted October 12, 2016 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Small correction: those are Black Oystercatchers, not American Oystercatchers. The binomial is right though.

    Also a couple fine-looking California Gulls in the background!🙂

    • Joe Dickinson
      Posted October 12, 2016 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      Yes, definitely black oystercatchers. Thanks for catching my slip.

  7. Martin Delson
    Posted October 13, 2016 at 1:01 am | Permalink

    Adding a remark on pelican herding. I’ve seen white pelicans in San Francisco Bay swimming in a line (as in the photo), form a circle, and then, as if responding to some signal, all dipping their beaks into the water at the same instant. They’ll do that several times, then one of them will break the circle, they’ll form another line, and then another circle, and repeat the behavior.

    It is indeed beautiful to watch.

    • Joe Dickinson
      Posted October 13, 2016 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I’ve seen them transition from line to circle on several previous occasions. This time they remained in line while moving forward a considerable distance, and they were periodically dipping beaks as they advanced.

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