Friday, February 27, 2015

Tides, Pelicans!

Growing up in the Midwest, and then living over half my life in Arizona, the shoreline is still an amazing place to me. The trip to Puerto Peñasco especially is interesting as the desert doesn't change much until you get about 10 miles from the shore when it suddenly goes from desolate desert to desolate desert mixed with beach sand... Oh yea - and there is the 4,000 foot tall volcano complex we pass on the way too, the Pinacates, that stand out too. But anyway, once on the shoreline, the blue of the sea contrasting with the pale sand just hurts your eyes it is so pure!

And since the place is so alien, I'm still amazed by simple things. Puerto Peñasco has some of the largest tidal swings in the world, interestingly enough... While down at the southern tip of Baja the tidal change is something less than 1 meter, like the little waves in a bath sloshing up over the end of the tub, tides can move up to 7 meters at the end of the Sea of Cortez near Rocky Point! We always seem to visit near new or full moon, so the tidal swings are generally near their maximum. The photo at left was taken 5pm Sunday, at high tide. You can see a woman climbing up the shore, crossing the high tide mark left the night before, helped with a strong southerly wind. At right is the same vantage point the next morning at 11am, low tide. This was only a 4 meter range, but with the 150 meters of beach exposed, you can see how far out it can go if that vertical range is almost doubled. One of my early time lapse clips was of the tide coming in, blog post from 4.5 years ago is here, and the Youtube video is here!

Perhaps helped by the steady winds blowing strongly during our entire stay, the brown pelicans were a constant presence drifting over. I've seen them gliding in long lines seemingly inches off the water, a risky proposition with the blustery, rough sea this time. I've also seen them fishing in large groups, soaring almost motionless, then tucking wings to dive underwater, often hoisting a large fish down their throat when they surface. But this time they were conservatively high, nowhere near the water, as they soared by the dozens, if not hundreds in small groups, perhaps headed home after hanging out by the shrimp boat docks.

On Monday afternoon, our last full day in Mexico, we headed into town for some sightseeing. For no particular reason, I took along the 300mm lens in case anything interesting came up. We went in to the Malecon, the sea wall and walkway along the bay in Rocky Point. Comfortably seated, the pelicans flew by at head height or below us, so I fetched the lens and monopod to try shooting them. Thanks to the marvels of autofocus and image stabilization, it was almost like shooting fish in a barrel to get close ups as they paraded by. Both of these pictures might be the same bird, the frame at right taken a second or two past the left image.  Like I warned you, simple stuff, but still fascinating!  I've got lots more, so stay tuned!

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