There are few things more graceful, more elegant and more hypnotic than a bird carving spirals and circles in the blue sky. Like figure skaters, they twist one way then loop another.
As I watched a single, huge American white pelican swoop overhead, I felt like I was watching the origin of dance, the roots of all musical movement.
As one, then more of the giant birds flew above the river, even larger numbers gathered on sand bars in the middle of the river, sleeping, grooming, chasing off blue herons and black double-breasted cormorants.
"American white pelicans are most common in northeastern Oklahoma during the months of April and October, when seasonal migrations take them through in large numbers as they move between wintering areas in the southeastern U.S. and Mexico and breeding grounds in the interior central and western U.S. and Canada," said Dan Reinking, a senior biologist with the University of Oklahoma's Sutton Avian Research Center in Bartlesville.
Many cities are perched on river banks. Tulsa is not unique in that way. But not every city has wildlife so close to an area of such dense population.
"The Arkansas River corridor in Tulsa is home to hundreds of species of birds each year," Reinking added. "Some are year-round residents, while others may be present seasonally during winter, summer, or spring and fall migrations.
"Waterfowl, shorebirds, pelicans, gulls and more use the aquatic habitat, while warblers, sparrows, tanagers, wrens, and other woodland species occupy adjacent forested bottomlands.
"Bald eagles nest and hunt along the river, as do endangered least terns."
All of this mere blocks from apartments and houses. Even yards away from traffic and bicyclists.
This makes Tulsans lucky, in my opinion. The sound of the rushing water and bird calls, the dances and confrontations of the birds make for an amazing way to spend the afternoon.
Behind the lens
To get these pictures, I visited the river several times over the past week. I used a Canon EOS-1D Mark III, that can take five pictures a second. To get a good look at the birds without scaring them away, I used a 600mm lens and a 2x converter, which doubles the 600mm, making it the equivalent of a 1200mm lens.
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