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.
A healthy Longtail Tuna was eventually landed after another epic battle on my fishing rod.
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.
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.
I noticed four pelicans in shallow bay waters close to the beach.
A school of baitfish was chased close to shore and these pelicans made the most of that opportunity.
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.
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.
Their feet ‘jump’ off the water surface, an incredible movement.
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.
However, pelicans don’t like the breaking surf.
Once they realise a wave could inundate them, they jump-fly over the breaking waters.
The calmer waters are a much more preferred hunting area.
If they don’t have to use such an energetic movement, they prefer to float over oncoming waters.
In crystal clear waters, this really looks cool.
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.
One pelican spotted the free meal and came right up towards me, never losing sight of the bait.
He wasn’t shy and waited for a feed. I couldn’t resist.
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.
The closest pelican realised his chance and thrust forward.
The seagulls gave way as the beak combed through the waters.
Success, dinner was served.
But there are still plenty off competitors who could make a last minute steal.
At a safe distance, the takeaway meal was tossed head first and disappeared quickly in the pelican’s pouch.
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?
The Seagulls won the race this time. I held my empty hands up high, signaling no more food was available.
The pelicans realised this action and came ashore, one by one.
They passed me in typical pelican wading style, which was rather amusing. I couldn’t help giggling.
Reflections of receding waters acted as a mirror in double vision.
The wings were spread widely towards the sun.
Water was shaken off by wing movement.
Up and down and down and up again.
A full body shake shook some more water off. What an entertaining behaviour.
There is still always an itchy part that needs attention.
With the same cheeky pelican smile, he passed me again towards the ocean shore.
Like a jumbo jet, precautions had to be taken before take off.
His mate double checked on the movement and gave the ‘all clear’.
Roger that, ready for lift off.
Jump and flap, jump and flap.
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.
Well, as much he could stretch his foot without tumbling over.
Passing me with his cheeky smile and wings up high, ‘just smile and wave boys, smile and wave!’
Without hesitation, he took up to the sky,
flying over an incredible sea of stars.
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.
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.