One of my favorite birds on the Broward is the Roseate Spoonbill. It is also one of the most challenging birds I have tried to capture in a photograph. 98% of the time my encounter is sighting a spoonbill at low tide in the thin mud stream near the dock. I then carefully sneak down to the dock to take a photograph of this illusive pink bird only to see it quickly moving either upstream or downstream and out of camera range. When I try to anticipate and beat them prior to arrival, they are either a “no show” or show up seconds after I have given up and gone back inside. It is mid July. My first spotting of the Roseate Spoonbills was 27 April and I have been trying almost daily to get a good capture/keeper photograph. My goal is to capture one on a close fly by in optimum light and taking off or landing in close proximity. In the interim I have had several interesting interactions while observing this illusive feathered beauty.
This morning there are a group of five spoonbills in the low tidal stream near the dock. My presence and slow movement do not spook them but they are careful not to come too close or feed towards my direction. That is with the exception of one bird. In some earlier encounters I have noted that the birds will allow me in close proximity but they will often turn their spoon shaped beaks and head in an upward movement and make a call that sounded sort of like a three syllable “URRH URRH URRH” which I perceived was a friendly warning. This morning as I sit close to the spoonbill I try to mimic the sound. To my surprise it turns and looks at me and repeats the movement and call. The bird then lowers its head and proceeds to walk and feed in the stream towards my direction. It then stops and does the head nod gesture which I then mimic back. It seems curious but still cautious. Finally caution wins out and it turns around and rejoins the group. But I think on some bird to human level we have communicated. Yes, I am a certified Spoonbill Whisperer now and have the Tee Shirt (well in truth my Editor has the shirt) to prove it. But I do have the photos.
Later in the week I catch four spoonbills as they traverse from the stream to the dock ahead of me as I approach. They were going from one stream to another. Although not the "in flight" capture I am seeking it is as close as I have come to date. One then flies down beside a Great Egret. It lands and hops a bit further into the stream. It is deeper than anticipated and the bird quickly flies up and onto the shallow mud bank. I have never seen these birds attempt to swim. They are wading shorebirds and prefer to walk the shallow tidal stream in only a few inches of water as they sweep their spatulate bills back and forth ahead of them searching for food.
I will continue to observe and try to get that perfect capture shot. These beautiful birds were once hunted to near extinction for their feathers. They are making a great comeback. In the meantime, I have indeed had a close encounter of the spoonbill kind. Ya’ll continue to pray for me now for that perfect photo opportunity. Think pink cotton candy colored spoonbill dreams and Be Blessed. Harry