January 11 ~ Sebastian, FL
I have previously written and shared photos from this location but as is always the case with wildlife photography, every outing is unique so I'll be telling you about this particular visit to the Judah & Son Fish Market in Sebastian, Florida. For years now anytime I visit family in Sebastian, I try to fit in a visit to this location. There is almost always a big flock of American White Pelicans that hang out on the docks at this market waiting the occasional fish scrap to be tossed their way. This year was no different and on the evening of January 11th I drove to the market with hopes of seeing these beautiful birds again.
I arrived around 3:30 and the birds did not disappoint. There was a flock of at least 30 or more White Pelicans as well as a few Brown Pelicans in the area. I grabbed a few photos of a couple of the White Pelicans that were swimming around and then moved my attention to the Brown Pelicans. Before I continue, I do want to mention that this is private property owned by the fish market so if you ever get a chance to visit please respect their property and be sure to ask permission to photograph the birds. In my experience they have been happy to oblige.
I had noticed the Brown Pelicans were lined up on dock posts to the left of where I was positioned. Over and over again they would leap off the posts and dive right into the water trying to catch a passing fish. I would have loved to capture them diving but to get the right angle for a good background I would have had to trespass onto the neighboring private property so I stayed put and tried to think of something else. I noticed after each dive that the pelicans would slowly drift away from the dock they dove from then they would take off into the wind which caused them to fly parallel to me. This would be perfect for a takeoff photo. I set up in a good spot and didn't have to wait long for one of them to dive, surface, and take off. I was able to try multiple times and get a bunch of great takeoff photos, it worked out wonderfully. While working with the Brown Pelicans a beautiful Great Egret landed on a post right near me and stayed just long enough for a portrait.
After a while the Brown Pelicans stopped diving so I turned my attention back to the White Pelicans. I photographed them sitting on the dock, flying, swimming, landing, doing just about everything. Every once in a while some fish scraps would land in the water from the fish market and the Pelicans would all speed over to try to be the first one to get the food. I was able to get a few close up portraits while they were doing this which was fun.
Most of the photos I had taken from up on the dock, I had been sitting in the same spot for a while so all the birds had become comfortable with me. Suddenly a White Ibis came flying in and landed right in front of the big pelicans. Moments later a Snowy Egret landed on the dock right in front of me. I was able to line up a photo that focused on the Snowy Egret with the White Ibis and White Pelicans in the background. Three all white birds lined up in the same shot, not a common occurrence! Another all white bird, a Great Egret, ended up on the dock at one point but I wasn't able to get all of them in the frame at the same time. It was still great to see all these beautiful birds in one spot and so close to me.
I photographed many bird species including the American White Pelicans, Snowy Egret, Great Egret, White Ibis, a pair of Ruddy Turnstones that showed up for a short period (not pictured here) and a Laughing Gull that landed almost on top of me it was so close. The sun was getting lower in the sky and the light was getting better by the minute. I was having a great time taking photos non-stop and trying my best to create unique photos that I hadn't taken here before. That can become a challenge when you visit the same location multiple times, trying to not take the same photos you have in the past.
It was now 5:30 and the sun was near setting. I would usually leave at this point because most of the White Pelicans that are sitting on the dock start to become shaded from the fish market building. One of the downsides of this location is you loose the last 20-30 minutes of sunlight due to shade. For some unknown reason I decided to stay on this evening to see what would happen.
As the last sunlight disappeared from the dock the sky opposite the setting sun started to turn a soft pastel shade of orange and peach. The sky color was a perfect compliment for the yellow-orange color of the White Pelican's beak. I had also noticed for the first time during this outing that White Pelicans have a touch of peach color on some of their back feathers. I'm not sure how I had missed that before but in all my previous visits I hadn't noticed. One of the last photos I took that day was one of my favorites from the outing. I had noticed a few of the pelicans tucking their beaks into the feathers on their back and starting to sleep for the night. I put on my 500mm lens so I could really isolate one particular bird who was right in the middle of the flock. I took a few photos with this bird's eye closed as it slept but then it would occasionally open its eye so I took one with an open eye as well. When I first saw this photo large on the computer I knew I had made something unique. A single open eye surrounded by a sea of white, quite possible my favorite photo of the trip.