Fishing on a Sea of Stars, Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Autumn is upon us in Australia, bringing cooler temperatures all around. The nights are brisk and chilly and water temperatures are cooling off as well. Most animals are heading to warmer places up north, I decided to do so as well. The weather gods are on my side again, as conditions are perfect for kayaking and photography. I just couldn’t resist a stop over at Woody Head. Calm winds, low swell and crystal clear waters were irresistible, simply magnificent. I was out on the water by first light, large schools of baitfish had gathered around the reefs. It wasn’t long before line peeled off my fishing reel in usual rapid fashion. This is just too much fun.

Another healthy Longtail Tuna was landed on my Maniyak at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Another healthy Longtail Tuna was landed on my Maniyak at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

A healthy Longtail Tuna was eventually landed after another epic battle on my fishing rod.

S(t)unning early morning reflections at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

S(t)unning early morning reflections at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

The sun had only just risen behind low clouds over the horizon, giving this already pretty an orange glare. What a start to the day, just fantastic. I trolled another bait and again, the line peeled off my reel. Wow, the action I hoped for but didn’t expect.

Torpedo shape, Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Torpedo shape, Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Another Longtail Tuna was captured and released again. By the time I landed a good sized Tailor, I have seen plenty of turtles and a pod of dolphins in these calm waters. Seems like humankind wasn’t the only ones to make most of these ideal conditions.

Feeding frenzy in shallow waters at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Feeding frenzy in shallow waters at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

I noticed four pelicans in shallow bay waters close to the beach.

Collective hunting at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Collective hunting at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

A school of baitfish was chased close to shore and these pelicans made the most of that opportunity.

Swimming on a sea off stars at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Swimming on a sea of stars at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Swimming in a sunny glare off calm waters,  it appeared to be an ocean of stars.  I have never witnessed such collective fishing strategy by pelicans, I had to observe this with my OM-D.

Uh, there’s one over there, Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Uh, there’s one over there, Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Fish that is spotted a few meters away is given chase with a fly hopping technique. Just enough thrust to stay airborne, but not enough to elevate.

Fly and hop technique at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Fly and hop technique at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Their feet ‘jump’ off the water surface, an incredible movement.

Sifting through the water at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Sifting through the water at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

With their wings up in the air, the long beak dives into the water, netting any fish in its way. Spotting fish from a distance in that low angle is impossible for humans to do. I believe that pelicans have polarised vision.

Not liking the surf, Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Not liking the surf, Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

However, pelicans don’t like the breaking surf.

Not storking the swell at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Not storking the swell at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Once they realise a wave could inundate them, they jump-fly over the breaking waters.

Hop and fly over the waves at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Hop and fly over the waves at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

The calmer waters are a much more preferred hunting area.

Butt face, Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Butt face, Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

If they don’t have to use such an energetic movement, they prefer to float over oncoming waters.

Cool image in clear waters at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Cool image in clear waters at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

In crystal clear waters, this really looks cool.

Chasing off competitors at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Chasing off competitors at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Competition is fierce within the pelican group. Add seagulls to the mixture and it gets even more dramatic. I still had some baitfish from this morning’s fishing. What better way to use it to feed these pelicans and record their behaviour with my camera. Holding the bait up in the air had the desired effect.

You got something for me? Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

You got something for me? Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

One pelican spotted the free meal and came right up towards me, never losing sight of the bait.

What’s that in your hand? Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

What’s that in your hand? Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

He wasn’t shy and waited for a feed. I couldn’t resist.

There might be a free feed? Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

There might be a free feed? Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

This attracted the other pelicans and seagulls. Here I was standing on the beach surrounded by pelicans and seagulls. Admittedly, it was hard to focus on one particular object. I threw another baitfish up in the air to land on shallow waters in front off me.

Out off my way!!! Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Out off my way!!! Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

The closest pelican realised his chance and thrust forward.

It’s gotta be here somewhere?! Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

It’s gotta be here somewhere?! Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

The seagulls gave way as the beak combed through the waters.

Gotcha! Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Gotcha! Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Success, dinner was served.

Can’t trust those gulls at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Can’t trust those gulls at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

But there are still plenty off competitors who could make a last minute steal.

Tossing fish at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Tossing fish at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

At a safe distance, the takeaway meal was tossed head first and disappeared quickly in the pelican’s pouch.

All eyes on me at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

All eyes on me at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Plenty of eyes were watching my actions, I felt a little intimidated. I had one more fish left, who is going to snare this one?

Seagulls were quicker this time at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Seagulls were quicker this time at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

The Seagulls won the race this time. I held my empty hands up high, signaling no more food was available.

Pelican Catwalk at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Pelican Catwalk at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

The pelicans realised this action and came ashore, one by one.

Another contestant at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Another contestant at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

They passed me in typical pelican wading style, which was rather amusing. I couldn’t help giggling.

Mirror mirror on the sand...? Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Mirror mirror on the sand…? Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Reflections of receding waters acted as a mirror in double vision.

What are you looking at? Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

What are you looking at? Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

The wings were spread widely towards the sun.

That’s how we do it! Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

That’s how we do it! Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Water was shaken off by wing movement.

And down again, Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

And down again, Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Up and down and down and up again.

Feeling good, Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Feeling good, Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

A full body shake shook some more water off. What an entertaining behaviour.

Still itchy and scratchy at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Still itchy and scratchy at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

There is still always an itchy part that needs attention.

Watch this! Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Watch this! Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

With the same cheeky pelican smile, he passed me again towards the ocean shore.

Wingspan? Check! Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Wingspan? Check! Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Like a jumbo jet, precautions had to be taken before take off.

Thrust? Check! Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Thrust? Check! Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

His mate double checked on the movement and gave the ‘all clear’.

Turbine? Check! Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Turbine? Check! Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Roger that, ready for lift off.

Copy that, ready for take off, Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Copy that, ready for take off, Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Jump and flap, jump and flap.

Hop and flap, hop and flap, Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Hop and flap, hop and flap, Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

A breaking wave needed to be cleared but this pelican was an expert. The last pelican had a special treat for me. He seemed to appreciate my earlier fish offering and gave me a thank you wave.

Smile and wave boys, smile and wave! Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Smile and wave boys, smile and wave! Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Well, as much he could stretch his foot without tumbling over.

Here we go, Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Here we go, Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Passing me with his cheeky smile and wings up high, ‘just smile and wave boys, smile and wave!’

Leap start at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Leap start at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Without hesitation, he took up to the sky,

Flying over a sea off stars, the end! Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Flying over a sea of stars, the end! Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

flying over an incredible sea of stars.

Pelican and gull runway at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Pelican and gull runway at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Pelicans may not be on everybody’s favourite watch list, they sure are on mine. Watching and catching this behaviour with my camera makes me appreciate and understand animal behaviour even more.

End of runway at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

End of runway at Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

Going through these photos with a huge smile on my dial afterward, it becomes clear that the camera doesn’t lie. The language of photography has spoken once more. 

One thought on “Fishing on a Sea of Stars, Woody Head, New South Wales, Australia

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