I recently had a great two days photographing American White Pelicans in central Washington state. These birds aren’t ones you necessarily associate with the Pacific Northwest. However, they can be found at several locations on the Columbia River in central and eastern Washington.
One place I have found them consistently is Chief Joseph Dam in Bridgeport, WA. The birds swim on the river under the dam’s spillway and can be seen from the north side of the river at the Chief Joseph Hatchery visitor center. Unfortunately, these pelicans are often too far away for good photography. A better spot is on the south side of the river off Pearl Hill Road, NE, just west of the dam. At this location there’s a gravel road that leads to an open area where you can drive right to the edge of the river.
Pelicans seem to love a group of rocks in the river at this spot. You have an unobstructed view of these birds as they sleep, sun and preen on the rocks. The birds also often take flight from here, skipping across the river waters like the top photo for this post.
I have shot from this spot with both 400mm and 500mm lenses on a Nikon D500 crop sensor camera. 400mm wasn’t really quite long enough but 500 mm was adequate. These photos were taken with a Nikon 500 mm PF lens on the D500 and also cropped a bit during processing. A 1.4x teleconverter with the 500 mm lens was helpful when the birds were away from the rocks on the far side of the river.