Wednesday, June 22, 2011
The ibis: last to leave, first to come back
This morning on Biscayne Bay, the outgoing tide reached its low sometime around 10 am. The number of waders increased as the morning wore on and the water levels decreased. I had a new and improved stake out pole with me and it worked perfectly. And I had the entire bay to myself, just me and the great white egret, the white ibis, the little blue heron and the tricolor heron. As always on this bay, the birds have lots of space and keep a good amount of it between me and them. But, a few ibises let me approach them as they preened and posed nicely. So today, I am thinking about the white ibis, one of my favorite birds to photograph.
Word has it that the white ibis is the last to leave before a hurricane and the first to come back after the storm. It's show of bravery may also be related to the fact that the white ibis suffered the greatest death rate among all species in August 1992 as Hurricane Andrew paved its path of destruction through Biscayne Bay, Big Cypress and the Everglades; all roosting and nesting areas for the white ibis. I came to south Florida five years after that hurricane. My awakening to birds began soon after and I could not help finding great delight in seeing small groups of white ibises feeding on someone's front lawn as I drove through my neighborhood. And when they showed up one day on my lawn, I was thrilled. Yes, they do cluck like chickens and have been referred to as "Chokoloskee Chicken" by those gladesmen living on the island. They have a funny honking noise too, and when they turn their head a certain way, they remind me of the big nosed comedian, Jimmy Durante.
Amusing or not, the white ibis brings me joy. It is a constant reminder that I live in a metropolis that intermingles with one of the most beautiful and robust (yet fragile) wildernesses in this country. I am lucky to be here and glad that these common birds are as common as they are. Now, let's get through this hurricane season in one piece.