Sunday, September 9, 2012
February 28, 2014
Unexpected events happen in life. Some events change our direction or even set us back. Some events propel us forward in a way we never imagined. Sometimes, we don't recognize the event and we simply go on with our life without contemplating the "hows" and "whys". On May 26, 2012, I experienced an event, although at the time, it did not seem so significant.
From a few hundred feet away, I spotted a white bird of moderate size foraging around a mangrove tree. In these waters, a moderate sized white bird is either a snowy egret or a juvenile little blue heron. Nothing special about that. I paddled closer to the bird and stopped the boat just before entering the zone of concern (where the bird becomes alert to my presence). Something was different about the bird; it did not have the slender beak or body of a blue heron or snowy egret. I focused at 400mm, and took a few shots. Through the LCD, I zoomed in on a photo and noticed that the bird had red eyes. Everything about it, except for the white feathers, made me think that it was a yellowcrown nightheron.
As this bird was clearly unique, I contacted the man himself, David Sibley, who confirmed that the white bird was an albino version of the nightheron. He also displayed one of my photos on his website, thank you Dr. Sibley. http://www.sibleyguides.com/2012/07/a-heron-id-quiz/
A couple weeks later, I contacted Biscayne National Park as they keep a running tab on birds spotted in the park. I figured they would find the albino of interest, which they did. I communicated with Dr. Vanessa McDonough, one of the parks fishery and wildlife biologists, and park ranger Gary Bremen. The bird is now listed on the park's site: http://www.nps.gov/bisc/naturescience/birds.htm And ranger Bremen posted one of my photos in his "Featured Creature" Facebook site series. http://www.facebook.com/BiscayneNPS
At this point, I was happy to have found something so unique that others took an interest. But my discovery of the albino bird soon became more than just a rare find. This little bird opened a door for me. It turned out that Ranger Bremen is also the Director of the Dante Fascell Visitor Center's art gallery in Biscayne National Park. I asked him to visit my pbase gallery that displays Biscayne Bay. He liked my work enough to invite me to display it at the gallery. I was in.
So you see, this little white bird, so rare and so lovely became a significant event in my life. I think about it often and have seen it a few times since my first siting. I worry about it and wonder how it will survive out there. I wonder how a white bird will be able to hunt at night. I wonder if it will have the opportunity to reproduce. The albino yellowcrown is not only a symbol of opportunity, but it is a symbol of my love for Biscayne Bay.
Ranger Bremen and I may have several things in common, but one thing I know for sure is that we share a love and appreciation for Biscayne Bay. I believe he recognized that in my photos. Ranger Bremen grew up on Biscayne Bay. He experienced the bay before it became protected waters, when it was on the brink of death from overfishing, over-development and pollution. He has experienced it from all angles. In comparison, my relationship with Biscayne Bay did not begin until 2004, when Vivian introduced it to me from our kayaks. While she fished, I explored. Since 2005, I have been photographing the western shoreline of Biscayne Bay. And now, my work and love of Biscayne Bay will be displayed in print, in public.
So what is the significance of February 28, 2014? It is the opening day of my 3-month gallery at Dante Fascell Visitor Center. It is a very long time from now, but that time is a gift. It is more than simply preparing photographs for a gallery; rather it will be a new level of exploration and learning the bay, and then attempting to incorporate these experiences into my photographs that will make the next 17 months the most important ones for the photographer in me. My goal is simply this: present Biscayne Bay in a way that will make people take notice of its unique and amazingly beautiful qualities that should never be taken for granted. I want them to recognize Biscayne Bay's significance in their lives. Exactly what the albino yellowcrown nightheron did for me.