Friday, June 4, 2010

White-faced Ibis And True Friends

A friend stopped by yesterday. She had a death in the family some months ago and has just not been able to shake the doldrums. Tears wash over her and stop her in her tracks. She feels like an idiot and out of control. This was compounded by a stretch of weather that was pretty depressing, too. We had rain and thick fog ruling us for about a week. Things were beginning to smell like mold. When I would come into the house from outside I wouldn't want to take off my jacket feeling too cold and damp. I eyed the furnace thermostat a couple of times, tempted to turn on the heat. It was June 3rd; I resisted and kept on my jacket. When my friend came, I was trying to do some housekeeping making use of the dark days and hoping to at least feel like I was getting something done. I hadn't even taken any photographs in a couple of days. It was just too dark and dreary. My friend's despair gave me the perfect excuse to leave the house, "Let's go for a ride!" I wasn't asking a question. I grabbed my handbag and keys and headed for the car. "Are you going to take your camera,?" she asked, looking out the window at the pouring rain. "Yes, of course, I always take it, no matter what." But, truthfully, even I doubted the wisdom of that rule on a day that lowery. Nonetheless, out the door the three of us went - my friend, my camera and I. Was that redundant?


A White-faced ibis hangs around with a pair of Mallards. White-faced ibis are distinguished from Glossy by the white feathers around a reddish face and bright, reddish pink feet. They are the same size.
My friend had been nearly house-bound for eight years while she cared for a family member. Though she had lived here since childhood, there were many places she had never had opportunity to see. I took her on a tour of my usual  birding haunts. All the while, I chatted about the wildlife I had photographed in these places, trying to lift our mood. My friend wasn't really interested nor listening. She was struggling to pull out of her maudlin mindset as I was struggling to believe that we might see something exciting and that the fog and rain wouldn't matter. I drove down a dirt road into a low hollow where there is a pond edged by marsh. It's not beautiful. A landowner on one side keeps horses and the manure run-off has fouled the shallow pond. But, I do see good birds in there on occasion. And, low and behold! Standing on a hummock was a White-faced ibis! I was so excited I could have squealed like a pinched pig and maybe I actually did! I had never seen one of these birds before and knew them to be very rare in Maine. Recently, I posted about Glossy Ibises. They are interesting, but not rare. The identification differences are subtle. I knew the salient points of distinction between the two,  because years ago, I saw Glossy ibises and thought they were White-faced. Birders leaped out of the Ethernet to inform me that I was wrong and to tell me the differences. That stuck with me, so when I saw the White-faced, I knew exactly who I was looking at. My glee, in fact, infected my poor, downtrodden friend. I was ebullient with delight at the sighting of something rare and being able to prove it with many, good quality photographs, in spite of the rain and day's gloom. I told her repeatedly, "You are my lucky charm! You're part of it! Look, look! It's a big deal and that makes you a big deal, too!" She cracked a smile and even a couple of laughs. Caught up in my energy, she wanted to know all about what the steps would be for reporting the ibis. I gushed with all the technical details. Later that evening, I sent a notice of the sighting with photographs to The Merrymeeting Maine Audubon  and Maine Audubon List serves. I did receive numerous responses filled with wonder and wanting more information about the magnificent ibis and where to find it. The thing about great bird sightings though, is that once it's over, it's over. The same can be said of great photographs. As a photographer and birder, I've learned that you're only as good as your most recent shot or sighting. Once you've done it, it's over. Everyone is on to looking for the next bird or next great photograph. I can say that's not true of great friendships. Your friends remember when you saved them, or merely dragged them out of the hole they were in in a moment. They don't expect another great moment nor ignore you when you don't produce.




Thanks to Wikipedia, David Allen Sibley's Sibley's Guide To Birds, and allaboutbirds.com for information. Posted by Picasa

16 comments:

  1. Enjoyed reading your post. It was nice that your excitement brought a smile to your friends face. Lovely shots, the reflections are wonderful. Had a glance down through your other bird shots too, fantastic.

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  2. Good post. I could almost hear your squeals of excitement...tho I wouldn't know a white faced Ibis from a housewife in a bathrobe (with a camera hanging off her neck)...

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  3. Thank you, Flighty. You realize, of course, that would be a great handle for a birder. Where are YOUR binoculars?

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  4. Great pictures but I think it would be nice to SHARE some of these locations regardless
    if the birds have moved on.

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  5. Ron, The bird was in the pond at the east end of the Sam Day Hill Rd in Phippsburg. That info was sent out with the MMAS and Maine Audubon list serves.

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  6. It's wonderful that you brought a smile to your friends face and found such a uncommon bird too. Let's hope that this was the medicine that she needed to begin the healing process.

    I checked out the location yesterday and came up empty handed. Later in the day, I saw an Ibis take flight from the Marsh River Bog Preserve near Newcastle but could not identify if it was a White-face.

    John

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  7. Good grief, I almost forgot....

    EXCELLENT PHOTO SERIES!

    John

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  8. Very insightful and full of wisdom.

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  9. Hi Robin :) Thank you so much for visiting my blog, and for the comments.

    What a fabulous series of photos in this post, and I enjoyed reading. Your other bird photos below are beautiful too, and very interesting.

    Hilde

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  10. As always, great photos Robin. I wish we got birds like that over here!

    Cheers,

    Seumus

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  11. Thanks, Seumus. I'll send it across the pond when next I see it and give you an advance call so you can be expecting it. Deal?

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  12. Wow Robin, this blog is right up there on the hit parade. OUTSTANDING! You are have far toooooooo much FUN. Go girl!



    Tom Robinson

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  13. Hi Robin,
    Beautiful photos and story. I tried to post you a nice comment but my connection is too fragmented (satellite, and it is still raining here).
    Having a tool or a skill-- binoculars, photography-- gives an opportunity for a focus "outside", and when the inside is grieving I think that is a very helpful strategy. You gave your friend a wonderful opportunity to get outside of herself for a moment, and to see something beautiful and unexpected.
    Carol

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  14. Thanks for that, Carol. Perhaps the element I love the most about photography and birding is not only what I learn as I go about those subjects, but what I learn about people and myself.

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  15. Lovely photos and touching reportage. You rock.

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  16. Thank you, Ed. I think some of my best writing comes out of those moments and when I least expect it.

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