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Pelicans flock at dusk

In a graceful movement, pelicans take to the water as schools of fish traverse just under the surface.

October 3, 2014 | Latest Photo Prev Next
Pelicans diving into the oceanPelicans diving into the oceanPhoto: Vladimir Kogan Michael / Shutterstock
October 3, 2014 | Latest Photo

Great white pelicans travel in hoards to ambush fish, making for a special moment for wildlife photographers. One such moment, which the photographer titled 'In the footsteps of fish schools,' perfectly illustrates the grace of such an orchestrated movement. The birds seem to hug the shore of lake as they descend on the unsuspecting marine life.

More than 50,000 of these large, hungry waterbirds migrate over Israel every autumn and winter. Their epic route takes them from their breeding grounds in Europe to the warm winter destination of Africa. Israel's many ponds and lakes offer an appealing stopover during this route, which is all well and good — until the local aquaculture is involved. Then there arises an issue of economics versus conservation. Enter the Israel Nature & Parks Authority and the Israel Ornithological Center of the Society for the Protection of Nature, two groups banding together to address the issue at select breeding ponds by taking it upon themselves to ensure the birds get full bellies while leaving the fisheries alone.

Despite the fisheries' great disdain for these birds, wildlife photographers revel in the opportunity to photograph them in such large groups. In 2013, about 5,000 pelicans decided they rather liked the pond they found along their migration route and stayed for an entire month. It happens that the pond belonged to a fishery, Ma'ayan Zvi, which was forced to try to chase them off to preserve what costly fish populations remained. Still, something quite beautiful resulted from the fishery's strife. The whole ordeal lead to a separate and equally compelling photograph that earned a commendation at the 2013 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition (see the dizzying photo for yourself here).

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