I came to MN a day prior to hosting my black bear workshops to photograph white pelicans. And, WHAT A DAY it was! Definitely on the hit parade for next year.
Camera Canon 1D Mark IV, with lenses ranging from 70-200, 300 f/2.8, 500 w/wo converters. Exposure was determined using Spot metering, plus 2Ev off the white pelican highlights.
When the pelicans were stationary atop the rocks I used slow shutter speeds (1/30) to blur the moving water on a number of close-up portraits and full length images. Flight images were taken with short lens at 1/1000 @ f/11, ISO 400 to both incorporate the environment and freeze subject motion. Longer lens was used to soften backgrounds and help isolate the subject. I shoot as if hired by a magazine to cover a story. Coming away with a diverse portfolio from each encounter is paramount, and mixing up the lens allowes me to capture the same behavior in multiple ways, as does using various f/stop and shutter speed combinations. Making a mental storyboard (write it down if necessary) of what you want to capture will help you come away with the full story. Avoid a lot of redundancy. Vertical and horizontal portraits, flight images, feeding, preening, environmental animal-scapes , etc are all taken into account when making the list. Concentrating on one goal or type of image at a time will help you to better accomplish your task at hand.