The last time I visited Lake Morton, I was dazzled with golden light and American White Pelican head shots. The light faded so quickly that I resolved to return on another morning before sunrise for a second opportunity with these beautiful birds. Getting up early definitely paid off!
Normally the pelicans hang out on a brick wall on the lake shore. When I got there before sunrise, I found the flock floating on the lake. Most of the birds were half asleep. The pale sky reflected in the lake and gave a pretty pink tone to the background.
As the sun started to rise, the birds woke up. The sleepy pelicans began to paddle toward their favorite brick wall. They waddled up the lake shore and assumed their favorite positions, lining up side by side as the water behind them glowed.
Having so many birds in close proximity can actually be a challenge. Sometimes you want to isolate one bird’s head when he’s preening at just the right angle, but his buddy on the right has stretched a wing in your golden background. You also don’t notice just how much pelicans move until you try to frame a perfect head shot!
This was in early March, and the pelicans were starting to come into their breeding plumage. Look for the bright yellow around the eyes, and the orange/red tones on the neck. Also the bump on the beak is part of the breeding attire. Do the pelicans consider a big bump on the beak to be attractive?
The water reflections were pure magic at one point in the lake. Look at how the red and blue background tones contrast with the pelican. This is one patriotic bird!
After the sunrise, I moved to get a perfect sun angle on the left-mode pelican. Look at the bright red markings around his eye! I loved how his blue eye coordinated with the pale blue water of the lake. His white feathers glisten in the early morning light.
I noticed several birds throwing their pouches straight up in the air. I think this is part of their courtship ritual. It’s pretty fast, so hard to catch if you are not already focused on the bird, but I got a few good frames.
Almost all my best shots from that morning were American White Pelicans. But as I hiked back to my car, I did come across another pair of birds that made me laugh out loud. Come back for the next post and I’ll share the fish tale!
Want to learn more about nature photography at Lake Morton?
Check out my Lake Morton page with more information about the location, map, website, photography tips, etc. It is archived by date so you can see my images from previous visits. Maybe you'll be inspired for your own trip!
Planning a trip to Florida? Don't miss my Central Florida Bird Photography Locations reference guide!
Wally sent me here. Great shots, Jess!
Thanks Steve! I enjoyed browsing through your blog. Your waterfalls are pretty! but you can keep the snow :)
I heard my name. Is it time to eat?
All of these photographs are spectacular! You have proven that even such an ungainly looking bird can look beautiful through the eyes and lens of the right photographer. Well done!
That open-beak image is stunning!