Understanding Bird Behavior: Why Brown Pelican Bill Pouch Cleaning Should Be Important To You … « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Understanding Bird Behavior: Why Brown Pelican Bill Pouch Cleaning Should Be Important To You ...


By the time this is published on Thursday, May 31, we should be on our way to the Verlanger Peninsula. My understanding is that even though we will be in the wilderness of arctic Norway with 24 hour daylight that we will have internet. If not, I will see you when I see you 🙂

Check Out the Travel Insanity!

Check out the travel insanity here.

These Just In: Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 180-400mm f/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR Lens and Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR Lens Available!

Both the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 180-400mm f/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR Lens an the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR are difficult items to find. Most folks have to wait months to purchase. If you would like to save a few bucks, please contact Steve Elkins via e-mail or on his cell at (479) 381-2592 (Eastern time) immediately and be sure to mention your BIRDSASART coupon code and use it for your online order.


BIRDS AS ART is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Selling Your Used Photo Gear Through BIRDS AS ART

Selling your used (or like-new) photo gear through the BAA Blog is a great idea. We charge only a 5% commission. One of the more popular used gear for sale sites charged a minimum of 20%. Plus assorted fees! Yikes. They went out of business. And e-Bay fees are now up to 13%. The minimum item price here is $500 (or less for a $25 fee). If you are interested please scroll down here or shoot us an e-mail with the words Items for Sale Info Request cut and pasted into the Subject line :). Stuff that is priced fairly — I offer pricing advice to those who agree to the terms — usually sells in no time flat. Over the past year, we have sold many dozens of items. Do know that prices on some items like the EOS-1D Mark IV, the old Canon 100-400, the old 500mm, the EOS-7D and 7D Mark II and the original 400mm DO lens have been dropping steadily. You can always see the current listings by clicking on the Used Photo Gear tab on the orange-yellow menu bar near the top of each blog post page.

Corrected Listing

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens

Jim Keener is also offering a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens in like-new condition for the BAA record low price of $1099.00. The sale includes a RRS Arca-Swiss plate, the soft lens case, the front and rear lens caps, the tripod collar, the hood, the original box, and insured ground shipping via to continental US addresses only. The package will not ship until your check clears.

Please contact Jim via e-mail or by phone at 310-741-7435 (9am-9pm Mountain time).Carl via e-mail.

The 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II is an amazingly versatile lens; I made a zillion great images with it when I was using Canon. It works well with both the 1.4X III and the 2X III TCs, even with the 7D II! It is easily hand holdable. It is great for tame birds, landscapes, urbex, indoor stuff likes concerts and recitals, and just about anything you want to photograph. A new 70-200 II currently sells for $1,949 so you can save a cool $850 by buying Jim’s lens at a great low price. artie

Price Reduction

Canon 24-105mm L IS Lens

Charlie Curry is offering a Canon 24-105mm L IS lens in near-mint condition for the great low price of $399.00 (was $424.00). The sale includes the front and rear caps, the lens hood, and insured ground shipping via major courier to continental US addresses only. Your lens will not ship until your check clears.

Please contact Charlie via e-mail or by phone at 1-407-448-7797 (Eastern time).

When I shot Canon, I rarely made a trip or headed out to the beach without my 24-105 in my Xtra-hand vest. Whenever I’d leave this amazingly versatile B-roll lens behind, I’d wind up regretting it. I use it for bird-scapes, photographer-scapes, landscapes, mini-macro scenes that included bird feathers, dead birds, and nests with eggs (the latter only when and if the nest can be photographed without jeopardizing it), and just about anything else that catches my eye. While I am nowhere near as good as Denise Ippolito is with this lens, I have made lots of good and saleable images with mine, the old version. artie

Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM Lens

Sale pending

Jim Brennan is offering a used Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens in good condition for $249.00; there is a small dent on the aperture ring, there are some nicks on the lens barrel, and the aperture ring is a bit tight but it does not effect sharpness or operation. Thus the ridiculous low price. The sale includes the lens Case (LP1219), the lens hood (EW-83E), the manual, the front & rear lens caps, the original box, and insured ground shipping to US addresses only. Signature required upon delivery. Personal or certified checks only unless other arrangements are made. The gear will not ship until the check clears the bank. Photos and additional information available upon request.

Please contact jim via e-mail or by cellphone 1-(609) 432-9210 (Eastern time).

This fine landscape lens goes for $749. Though Jim’s lens is on the well used side it function just fine and thus represents an excellent value. artie

Money Saving Reminder

If you need a hot photo item that is out of stock at B&H, would enjoy free overnight shipping, and would like a $50 discount on your first purchase, click here to order and enter the coupon code BIRDSASART at checkout. If you are looking to strike a deal on Canon or Nikon gear (including the big telephotos) or on a multiple item order, contact Steve Elkins via e-mail or on his cell at (479) 381-2592 (Eastern time) and be sure to mention your BIRDSASART coupon code and use it for your online order. Patrick Sparkman saved $350 on a recent purchase!


Several folks on the DeSoto IPT used the Booking.Com link below, got great rates, and saved a handsome $25.00 in the process. If you too would like to give Booking.Com a shot, click here and to earn a $25 reward on your first booking. Thanks to the many who have already tried and used this great service.

Gear Questions and Advice

Too many folks attending BAA IPTs and dozens of photographers whom I see in the field and on BPN, are–out of ignorance–using the wrong gear especially when it comes to tripods and more especially, tripod heads… Please know that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail. Those questions might deal with systems, camera bodies, accessories, and/or lens choices and decisions.

ACR Screen Capture for Brown Pelican, immature cleaning bill pouch

What’s Your Plan?

Before you scroll down, make a plan in your head for optimizing today’s featured image. What sort of crop would you execute? How would you deal with the high contrast? How wold you deal with the need for more room above the bird? Which slider setting does not make any sense at all?

You can learn about the bird’s behavior and how I optimized this image by scrolling down. But be sure to make your plan first.

ACR Stuff

You can always learn a lot by studying the RGB values (R=240, G=239, B=245) and the adjustments made to the various sliders. What made it necessary here to move the Shadow Slider to +100?

The San Diego Site Guide

Whether you are visiting San Diego for photography for the first time or live in the area and have done the pelicans many dozens of times, you will learn a ton by studying the San Diego Site Guide. Why spend days stumbling around when you can know exactly where and when to be depending on the wind direction and sky conditions? In addition to the pelican primer, there is great info on the best beaches for the gorgeous gulls and Marbled Godwits, on the lower cliffs and the Green Patch, Lesser Scaup, and Wood and Ring-necked Ducks as well.

Learn more or purchase your copy here.

This image was created on January 27, 2018 on the second San Diego IPT with the hand held Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens (at 500mm) with the Nikon D5 with Dual XQD Slots. ISO 400. Matrix metering -2/3 stop: 1/3200 sec. at f/5.6 in Manual mode. AUTO0 WB at 4:38pm on a clear afternoon. (Note: afternoon pelicans on sun angle are hard to find in La Jolla …

Group (grp)/Shutter Button/Continuous (AI Servo in Canon) AF was active at the moment of exposure. The array was centered on the pelican’s breast.

Phase detection AF Fine-tune value: +2.

Brown Pelican, immature cleaning bill pouch

The Behavior: Bill Pouch Cleaning

When a pelican opens its bill and pulls its lower mandible down over its distended neck, it is cleaning its bill pouch (even though that does not make much sense to us humans). It is often a clue that the bird will be doing a head throw. One of the problems is that most bill pouch cleaning images are best in horizontal format while most head throw images work best as vertical captures. You need to be really quick …

The Image Optimization

After converting the RAW file in Adobe Camera Raw I brought the image into Photoshop and expanded canvas top and left using the Crop Tool love handles with the proportions set to 3:3. (Note: you need to be in the unframed view to do this.) Then I filled in the added canvas with the always dependable John Haedo Content Aware Fill. Next was a 65 pixel Gaussian Blur applied to the whole image. I added a Hide-all (Inverse or Black) Layer Mask and painted the effect in (B, D) on the background with brushes of varying opacities (50% near the top of the frame and 33% below that). I carefully selected the bird and the rock using the Quick Selection Tool (W) along with the plus and minus Lasso Tools for fine-tuning the selection. Then I applied my NIK 40/40 recipe; it did wonders to the image by opening up the dark tones and toning down the bright white rock.

The BIRDS AS ART Current Workflow e-Guide (Digital Basics II).

You can order your copy from the BAA Online Store here, by sending a Paypal for $40 here, or by calling Jim or Jennifer weekdays at 863-692-0906 with your credit card in hand.

The BIRDS AS ART Current Workflow e-Guide (Digital Basics II)

Your guessed it, everything mentioned above and tons and tons more is covered in detail in the BIRDS AS ART Current Workflow e-Guide (Digital Basics II), an instructional PDF that is sent via e-mail. Learn more and check out the free excerpt in the blog post here. While the new e-Guide reflects my Macbook Pro/Photo Mechanic/DPP 4/Photoshop workflow, folks using a PC and/or BreezeBrowser will also benefit greatly by studying the material on DB II. Do note that you will find the RGB Curves Adjustment Color Balancing tutorial only in the new e-guide. Note: folks working on a PC and/or those who do not want to miss anything Photoshop may wish to purchase the original Digital Basics along with DB II while saving $15 by clicking here to buy the DB Bundle.

The two most recent and many of the older MP4 Photoshop Tutorial videos releases go hand and hand with the information in DB II):

  • The Wingtip Repairs MP4 Video here.
  • The MP4 Crow Cleanup Video here.

Folks who learn well by following along rather than by reading can check out the complete collection of MP 4 Photoshop Tutorial Videos by clicking here.

Though I have become more proficient converting my Nikon RAW (NEF) files in Adobe Camera Raw, I continue to optimize my Canon image in DPP 4. You can learn how and why I converted (and still convert) nearly all of my Canon digital RAW files in DPP 4 in the DPP 4 RAW Conversion Guide here. And, yes, I still have many Canon images to work on. 🙂 The RAW conversions for all three of today’s featured images was straightforward once I entered my camera/ISO specific recipes (as detailed in the DPP 4 RAW Conversion Guide). You can learn advanced Quick Masking and advanced Layer Masking techniques in APTATS I & II. You can save $15 by purchasing the pair. Folks can learn sophisticated sharpening and (NeatImage) Noise Reduction techniques in the The Professional Post Processing Guide by Arash Hazeghi and yours truly.

San Diego offers a wealth of very attractive natural history subjects, including and especially the Pacific race of California Brown Pelican. With annual visits spanning more than four decades, I have lots of photographic experience there … Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

2019 San Diego 4 1/2-DAY BIRDS AS ART Instructional Photo-Tour (IPT) SUN JAN 20, 2019 thru and including the morning session on THURS JAN 24: 4 1/2 days: $2099.

(Limit: 10/Openings: 9.)

Introductory Meet and Greet at 7:00pm on the evening before the IPT begins; SAT JAN 19, 2019.

Please see the Dancing Grebe Morning Add-On Info below

Join me in San Diego to photograph the spectacular breeding plumage Brown Pelicans with their fire-engine red and olive green bill pouches; Brandt’s (nesting with eggs and possibly chicks) and Double-crested Cormorants; breeding plumage Wood and Ring-necked Duck; other duck species possible including Lesser Scaup, Redhead, and Surf Scoter; a variety of gulls including Western, California, and the gorgeous Heermann’s, all in full breeding plumage; shorebirds including Marbled Godwit, Willet, Sanderling and Black-bellied Plover; many others are possible including Least, Western, and Spotted Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Black and Ruddy Turnstone, Semipalmated Plover, and Surfbird; Harbor Seals (depending on the current regulations) and California Sea Lions; and Bird of Paradise flowers. And as you can see by studying the IPT cards, there are some nice bird-scape and landscape opportunities as well. Not to mention a ton of excellent flight photography opportunities and instruction.

Please note: where permitted and on occasion, ducks and gulls will be attracted (or re-located) with offerings of grains and healthy breads.

Learning Exposure, Whether You Like It Or Not

Whether you like it or not, we will be beating the subject of exposure like a dead horse. In every new situation you will hear my thoughts on the exposure situation along with my thoughts on both Nikon and Canon histograms and the subject of blinkies. Whether you like it or not, you will learn to work in manual mode and to get the right exposure every time as long as a bird gives you ten seconds with the light constant.And you will learn what to do when the light is changing constantly. What you learn about exposure will be one of the great take-aways on every IPT.

Though the pelicans will be the stars of the show on this IPT, there will be many other handsome and captivating subjects in wonderful settings. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

It Ain’t Just Pelicans

With gorgeous subjects just sitting there waiting to have their pictures taken, photographing the pelicans on the cliffs is about as easy as nature photography gets. With the winds from the east almost every morning there is usually some excellent flight photography as well. And the pelicans are almost always doing something interesting: preening, scratching, bill pouch cleaning, or squabbling. And then there are those crazy head throws that are thought to be a form of intra-flock communication. You will be guided as to how to make the best of all of those opportunities. And depending on the weather and local conditions and tides, there are a variety of fabulous photo chances available in and around San Diego.


Did I mention that there are wealth of great birds and natural history subjects in San Diego in winter? Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

The San Diego Details

This IPT will include five 3 1/2 hour morning photo sessions, four 2 1/2 hour afternoon photo sessions, four lunches, and after-lunch image review and Photoshop sessions. To ensure early starts, breakfasts will be your responsibility. An so that we can get some sleep, dinners will be on your own.

A $599 non-refundable deposit is required to hold your slot for this IPT. You can send a check (made out to “Arthur Morris) to us at BIRDS AS ART, PO Box 7245, Indian Lake Estates, FL, 3385, or call Jim or Jennifer at the office with a credit card at 863-692-0906. Your balance, payable only by check, will be due on 10/11//2018. If we do not receive your check for the balance on or before the due date we will try to fill your spot from the waiting list. Please print, complete, and sign the form that is linked to here and shoot it to us along with your deposit check. If you register by phone, please print, complete and sign the form as noted above and either mail it to us or e-mail the scan. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me via e-mail.


Variety is surely the spice of life in San Diego. Click on the composite to enjoy a larger version.

Getting Up Early and Staying Out Late

On all BIRDS AS ART IPTS including and especially the San Diego IPT, we get into the field early to take advantage of unique and often spectacular lighting conditions and we stay out late to maximize the chances of killer light and glorious sunset silhouette situations. We often arrive at the cliffs a full hour before anyone else shows up to check out the land/sea scape opportunities.


This image was created in San Diego, CA with the Induro GIT 304L/Mongoose M3.6-mounted Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens, the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III, and the simply amazing, astounding, mega mega-pixel Canon EOS 5DS R. ISO 500. Evaluative metering -2/3 stop: 1/2500 sec. at f/6.3 in Av mode. AWB.

61-Point (Automatic selection)/AI Servo/Shutter Button AF as originally framed was active at the moment of exposure (as is always best when photographing moving subjects). Though the optimized image above was a healthy crop from the original the result was a high quality 148+ MB 16-bit file. Click on the image to see a larger version. The AF system selected two AF points, one above the other, between the two birds;the eye of the bird on our right is razor sharp.

Clarke’s X Western Grebe courtship rush

The Dancing Grebe Add-On. FRI JAN 25, 2019: $399.

Those registering for the 2019 San Diego IPT might wish to join me for the Dancing Grebe Add-On Morning as above. Please read the details carefully. You will need to wade at least mid-thigh deep with your tripod over an uneven bottom. Lightweight chest waders are advised. Long lenses are needed; a 100-400 will not cut it at this spot, even with a TC. Chances at this location (easily accessible from the IPT hotel), vary from day to day so there will be no guarantees. But when those grebes dance, it can be an amazing rush. We may also enjoy chances to photograph both species, Western and Clarke’s Grebes, at fairly close range.

Help Support the Blog

Please help support my efforts here on the blog by remembering to click on the logo link above each time that you shop Amazon. That would be greatly appreciated. There is no problem using your Prime account; just click on the link and log into your Prime account. With love, artie

If In Doubt …

If in doubt about using the BAA B&H affiliate link correctly, you can always start your search by clicking here. Please note that the tracking is invisible. Web orders only. Please, however, remember to shoot me your receipt via e-mail.

Please Remember to use my Affiliate Links and to Visit the New BAA Online Store 🙂

To show your appreciation for my continuing efforts here, we ask, as always, that you get in the habit of using my B&H affiliate links on the right side of the blog for all of your photo and electronics purchases. Please check the availability of all photographic accessories in the New BIRDS AS ART Online Store, especially the Mongoose M3.6 tripod head, Wimberley lens plates, Delkin flash cards and accessories, and LensCoat stuff.

As always, we sell only what I have used, have tested, and can depend on. We will not sell you junk. We know what you need to make creating great images easy and fun. And please remember that I am always glad to answer your gear questions via e-mail.

I would of course appreciate your using our B&H affiliate links for all of your major gear, video, and electronic purchases. For the photographic stuff mentioned in the paragraph above, and for everything else in the new store, we, meaning BAA, would of course greatly appreciate your business. Here is a huge thank you to the many who have been using our links on a regular basis and those who will be visiting the New BIRDS AS ART Online Store as well.


Be sure to like and follow BAA on Facebook by clicking on the logo link upper right. Tanks a stack.


In all blog posts and Bulletins, feel free to e-mail or to leave a comment regarding any typos or errors. Just be right :).

6 comments to Understanding Bird Behavior: Why Brown Pelican Bill Pouch Cleaning Should Be Important To You …

  • avatar David Policansky

    Hi, Artie. Best wishes to you and Anita. And Amy, who I have never met. There are lots of images there; I think I like the ruff with the ruff (blue boa) the best. Well done all.

  • avatar Guido Bee

    OK, Artie, I’m impressed by Anita’s work as well.
    Very Nice. Kinda makes me wish I was there.

  • Quick Question on your Post processing:-

    I was read the following “65 pixel Gaussian Blur applied to the whole image”. I wanted to understand why you went for Gaussian Blur for Whole Image and then used Inverse Layer Mask on the back ground. I found that whenever I use Gaussian Bur I had some issues with background colors. So I don’t use it often. I wanted to know your reason for the same.

    Have a safe Trip Artie.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      If I am not thrilled with the repairs that I have done and/or if the background is a bit too well defined for my taste I use the technique often to soften things up. I have never had a problem with the color when doing this … At least one that I noticed.

      with love, artie

  • avatar Guido Bee

    Have a great trip.
    Looking forward to imagery from both you and Amy over the next 6 weeks.
    Be well.

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Don’t forget Anita. As you will see here soon, she can be very dangerous …

      with love, artie