Joining the thousands of travellers that circumnavigate the globe to watch birds, (the feathered variety) is gathering increasing appeal. I’ve always appreciated their beauty, the freedom they represent, but recent opportunities to see exotic, colourful and majestic flying dinosaurs has added my interest, becoming particularly fond of pelicans.
Their appeal may not immediately seem apparent, and cute, funny penguins, majestic eagles or charismatic kingfishers probably have many more admirers, but watching these impressive creatures plunging into the sea just beyond the breakers is a heart racing experience.
Standing in the shallows with the waves breaking around my knees on the San Pancho, Riviera Nayarit near Puerto Vallarta in Mexico I watched transfixed as a small flock of these magnificent birds dive-bombed shoals of fish just below the rollers.
The pelicans seemed to queue in orderly fashion, before stalling mid-air before hurtling towards the ocean, crashing into the water like a ballistic missile. It was easy to imagine the panic stricken fish darting in all directions attempting to escape their assailants from the skies; it’s supposed to be safe down here.
These birds seem ungainly, yet once in the air they are graceful, and agile beyond anything we can imagine. Their display is almost balletic, swooping low, changing direction mid-air before accelerating to almost break neck speed as they charge towards the surf.
I could happily have remained on the attractive beach for hours watching the drama unfold, even choosing to almost ignore the nearby surfers, normally another favourite subject for my lens.
Birds and surfers seem in harmony, each ignoring the other, one concentrating on catching a wave, while the others were only interested in catching dinner. They often flew low over the heads of the surfers and were happy to plunge into the water between them.
You’re probably bored by images of diving pelicans by now, but I’m actually quite proud of these captures, they came out ok, especially when considered I was some distance away. All the images were taken on a 28-135mm lens, and have been cropped, but didn’t turn out too bad.
Mexico is popular with birdwatchers, keen to see the masses of birds which migrate through the country, seabirds and waders stopping off along the many miles of coastline, while still more make the mangroves their temporary homes.
Resorts like Riviera Nayarit, and Puerto Vallarta offer more than sombreros and tequila, or even sandy beaches, though there are plenty of those too. There is also culture and wildlife, which are worth taking a few hours away from the sun-worshipping to enjoy.
I’m not about to start wearing khaki coloured safari clothing or camouflaged beach shorts, buy a hide and a spotting scope, or watching reruns of “Springwatch”. Twitching is not going to become an all-consuming pastime, but afternoons like this will ensure I continue to enjoy watching birds whenever the opportunity arises.