Pelican Horizontal Preening Tips … « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

Pelican Horizontal Preening Tips ...


On Thursday we made our second trip to the seabird colony at Hornoya. We had the east wind that we had hoped for but instead of cloudy bright conditions we had dead-clear blue skies the whole day. Things were tough when the day began and then they got worse. I napped in the shelter before lunch and woke up freezing. But this time I was prepared with extra layers.


Thanks for all the June 14 Happy Birthday good wishes via e-mail and Facebook; yesterday marked 72 blessed years. It was wonderful to hear from so many folks and especially nice to hear from Dr. Cliff Oliver, Joe Mac Hudspeth, Steven Inglima and Barbara Ellison of Canon, Jeff Kay — an old golfing buddy, webmaster Peter Kes, and dozens of IPT veterans. 🙂

My Error

In the previous blog post, The Promising Pool on the Delta, here, I wrote in part:

It was, however, expert birder and noted avian artist John Yrizarry who first identified that bird correctly after studying specimen skins at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. I was there when he met Tom and said in his heavy, eastern European accent, “Its a shtint alright, but it’s a Little Shtint!” John along with wife Mary led field trips mainly to Prospect Park in Brooklyn for several decades and inspired hundreds of folks to take up birding. They now live in Tuxedo Park, a village in Orange County, New York where they do lots of volunteer conservation work.

I am not sure how or why I remembered John’s accent as heavy, eastern European, but as you will see below, I was wrong. With apologies.

More On John Yrizarry (from Pieter Prall)

Pieter Prall

Artist, author, editor, illustrator, author and editor at Globe Pequot Press and at Collier MacMillan. Now lives in Rockaway, New Jersey.

Via Facebook message:

John’s mother’s family was Irish and his father’s family was Basque – from the Pyrenees Region. He generally accentuates his Irish Heritage. I would just correct your mention of the Eastern European accent relative to his actual heritage … which was Irish and Basque … Basque being from the mountainous Pyrenean region bordering Northern Spain and Southern France. He may have picked up some regional accent from the Yrizarry clan and his mother’s Irish clan … and then … he is from Brooklyn. Anyway I remember the instance of the Little Stint and how he made a great play of over- pronunciating that “schtint” name over-and-over in a theatrical manner and how he reveled in the honor of finding the true identity of that bird. By the way … my memory may be slipping … but wasn’t there a similar story about a Greenshank? He was always finding something good. What a character.

From Mary Yrizarry, via e-mail:

How are you and where are you? For an aging couple we’re doing pretty well. John needs a cane or a rollator walker to get around, but he’s still enthusiastic about all things nature. I’m enjoying our surroundings in Sterling Forest with him. Come see us if you’re in the vicinity. Comment on your description of John: John grew up in Brooklyn in a family with an Irish and Welch background and has a somewhat peculiar Brooklyn accent so I don’t know where you got the eastern European accent from. He greatly appreciates your acknowledging his correct ID of the little stint however. The Tuxedo Park library is having a show of John’s work with a reception this Saturday so although he hasn’t done much art recently, there are folks up here who appreciate his various talents.

Love from us both,
Mary Yrizarry


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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.

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Contact Steve below to get yours tomorrow.

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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.

This image was created on the first 2018 San Diego IPT with the hand held Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens (at 400mm) and the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with Premium Kit: 64GB Card and Reader. ISO 1600. Evaluative metering +1 2/3 stops as originally framed. 1/500 sec. at f/5.6.

AF Micro-adjustment via LensAlign/Focus Tune: -4.

One up from the center AF point/AI Servo Surround/Shutter Button AF as originally framed framed was active at the moment of exposure (as is always best when hand holding). The selected AF point was on the folded wing feathers just below the center of the bird’s bill just this side of the plane of the bird’s visible eye. (As presented, this is a small crop for composition from the left and from below.) Click on the image to see a larger version.

2-year old Pacific race Brown Pelican preening

Pelican Horizontal Preening Tips …

When pelicans are standing upright and preening their breasts or their backs with their bill tips, you will almost always want to be working vertically. On occasion, they will preen by rubbing the bottom of their bill and even the top of their head against the feathers of the upper wing — the scapulars and the coverts, and the back. With this behavior, you will want to work with your camera held horizontally. At any given moment, the bird’s bill might be pointing skyward 90 — degrees to the ground, it might be pointing right at you, or it might be pointing straight back toward its tail — parallel to the ground, or anywhere in between. In general you will want to frame a bit wider that normal — that done best of course with a zoom lens — so that you will not clip the bill. Once all is in place and the action starts, you will want to hold the shutter button down and hope for one with a nice bill position, an open eye, and a decent look at the bird’s face. High frame-rate camera bodies like the Canon 1D XII and the Nikon D5 increase your chances for success.

Though not anywhere near full breeding plumage — come back next year for that — this is one of my all time Pacific race Brown pelicans. It is likely a bird in its second year with lots of remaining juvenal plumage — the brown feathers, but with the red bill pouch of an adult bird. It is rare to see this combination. You can see more photos of this bird in the Blue-eyed Chocolate-Covered Cherry blog post here.

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: 8.)

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.

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4 comments to Pelican Horizontal Preening Tips …

  • Wonderful shot Guru. Exif shows it was captured on 16Jan2018. I thought you had migrated to Nikon before that!

    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART


      I think that I got my Nikon gear later that week …

      with love, artie

  • avatar Tom Ennis

    Hi Artie,

    A belated Many Happy Returns.

    You have seen and photographed Little Stint more recently. You were on a visit to your daughter who was living in a former Soviet State and you photographed an interesting small shorebird which you published in the blog as a Red-necked Stint. A chum, formerly from England, now resident in Connecticut, identified it correctly as a Little Stint and you were quite pleased at the time because at that date you’d only seen Little Stint once before.

    What am I talking about. I can’t even remember the guy’s name and it was through him I met you back in 1992.

    Best Wishes,


    • avatar Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Tom for refreshing my memory. Uzebekistan was the place, the Brit was likely Richard Crossley, and the photos were likely bad 🙂 I will look for them when I get back home.

      with love, artie