On weekends, I like to sit out in the backyard and take my morning tea as I read the day’s appointed chapters on Taoist and Buddhist dharma. This is my quiet time, communing with nature, reflecting on how to be one with Tao, witnessing as morning stretches towards noon.
The backyard meets a community lake where ducks, geese, and migrating birds perch on trees and fences looking for the day’s meal. In between chapters and reading pauses, I’ve noted ibis, vultures, and parrots flying about, as well as local crows and seagulls cruising overhead looking for discarded ducks that did not make it across the street in time to avoid a speeding car.
I’m not a bird watcher, nor am I a fan of walking around a nature preserve counting or admiring birds. I have friends who venture on hikes in Shark Valley and botanical gardens in search of feathered migrants who happen to winter in our state before flying back north, or south to a different hemisphere. Apparently, because of shifting weather changes and disappearing landscapes, these birds often find themselves stranded in unfamiliar territory, or disappear altogether when they cannot find a suitable habitat they can thrive in. My bird-watching friends are always encouraging me to report unfamiliar specimens in order to alert local wildlife authorities about migration pattern divergences. I’m usually deterred from snitching on feathered migrants since I always fail to take an incriminating mugshot of the perpetrator, and because I don’t know the difference between a duck or a hawk, or what makes a raven different from a crow.
Imagine my surprise, then, when my reading reverie was interrupted by an unfamiliar squawk that made me loose my place on the page and look up as a brown bird of unusual size, beak, and coloring flew across my line of vision and disappeared behind a tall palm frond. I frowned. This bothered me because I don’t normally frown at a bird, unless one happens to be using my car for target practice.
The bird’s features did not register as one of the local birds I normally see when I’m sitting in the yard. A vulture it was not, I knew that for certain, as I’ve noted their wingspan, dark coloring, and fondness for gliding in the wind without a single flap of their wings. The bird was too big to be a crow, and crows tend to gather about in businesses — usually making me wonder what sort of shady deals they are peddling. Nor was it a seagull, as seagulls will make a nuisance of themselves the moment they suspect a morsel of anything is laying about. Besides, the mysterious visitor had a distinct squawk not usually associated with Latino cultures. I was at loss to make heads or tails about it. But, out of sight meant out of mind, and so I returned to my book, my feathers unruffled — so to speak.
When the tea grew cold, and the last page of the day’s reading was read, I was once again surprised to hear the loud, unfamiliar squawk. Now, instead of flying about, the mystery bird stood at the lake’s shore, and I was finally able to get a better look. A swamphen? The last remaining dodo?
I grabbed my phone, walked slowly toward the lake, and snapped a photo of the bird. Satisfied with my shot, I promptly texted the image to my bird-watching Friend!!!
Me: New guy in the hood. A Pokémon, perhaps?
Friend: Oh my goodness!!! I think that’s a limpkin!!! I don’t even have a picture of a limpkin yet!!!
Me: You’re welcome?
Friend: LOL, Good for you!!!
Me: It’s quite loud, I’m afraid. And not a pleasant squawk either. But interesting looking.
Friend: I’m going to have to visit your neighborhood soon!!! So the only brown ibis there are, are called glossy ibis!!! They are a dark brown and look shiny…hence the name “glossy ibis”!!! This is the larger “cousin” called a limpkin!!! They are not all that common!!!
Me: Huh! Well, she’s making a ruckus out on the lake today and not too many friends. You’d think she just arrived from college for Spring Break.
Friend: It just so happens the picture in my birding app shows it making a ruckus!!!
Me: Perhaps it’s on its way down to Cancun, or Daytona where the parties are. I knew you’d figure it out. Thanks!
Friend: Definitely a limpkin!!! Thank you for sharing your discoveries with me!!!
Me: Well, you know: if you see something, say something…you never know with these migrating birds. Perhaps it’s from Russia. I think they’re all spy drones anyway.
Friend: You may be right!!! LOL!!!