Photo by Mark Seth Lender

A remarkable bird is the pelican,
His beak holds more than his belican.
     He can take in his beak
     Enough food for a week -
But I'm damned if I know how the helican.

Dixon Lanier Merritt (1879 – 1972) 

Field Note


Most of the pelicans I've had the luck to photograph have been in California. This one, a brown pelican, was off Santa Cruz Island. He came low and near, face decked out in bright breeding colors, coasting by on wide buoyant wings. The best thing about pelicans is the way they feed, plunging into the surf like pointed stones to the terror of all the little fishes. It was two years after this shot was taken that I saw my next pelican. Irene, the hurricane that wasn't, arrived with the storm surge that should not have been, bigger than anything we'd seen in generations.  A few days later, under an unconscionably clear blue sky, I was standing at the seawall when down the bite came a single brown pelican, fifteen hundred miles from anywhere he'd likely call home. He dove once, and continued on, leaving ripples and the impression, everything is wrong.  

 —Mark Seth Lender