Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Scarlet Ibis

Currently Slow-Mocean and crew are in the Manamo River in the Orinoco Delta Region of Venezuela.  This is turning out to be the greatest trip we have ever taken.  Too many sights and experiences for my feeble mind to put into writing but I will try and write about a few.
The Scarlet Ibis is a beautiful bird reminding me of the white crane you see in Japanese art with the black wing tips.  This bird has at least one striking difference and that is its scarlet red plumage.  The bird seems to forage under the mangroves and along the beaches and low water estuaries.  They remind one of Pink Flamingos only smaller and a much deeper red.  One of the first species of birds we saw as we were entering the river mouth in Perdinales was the Scarlet Ibis as they foraged along the river banks and sat perched in low lying limbs.  Further up the river they flew ahead of the boat and perched high in the trees until we approached then they moved on again and waited as we caught up. 
Ibis Island is a small river island perhaps a half a mile long and eighth wide.  It is a forested island covered in thick branching trees.  It is at the south end of the island we were told we should anchor the boat and view the Ibis.  We anchored about 200 yds south of the island and due to current and water depth etc, I felt like playing it safe so we did not get overly close to shore, this time.  As dusk approached many Ibis could be seen perched high in the trees surrounding the island and a few were landing at the southern tip as we had hoped.  Truly a great place to watch this bird.  Then as the light began to fade birds started flying in from every direction in classic V formations much like Canadian Geese.  They would head straight into the island and land, five, ten, fifteen at a time.  It was great to watch and as we watched it seemed that a thousand birds were perched on the island.  The inevitable happened as the mosquitoes moved in for dinner and started moving us inside.  As we turned to run in, thinking the show was basically over, we noted a huge wave of birds in the distance headed directly for the island.  Amazing I thought.  I had never seen that many birds flying together at one time.  Not even starlings in a grain field had these numbers.  I looked around and the sky was filled in every direction with birds coming to roost and they looked like waves on the ocean as the lines of birds undulated and glided ever closer. 
As the evening wore on we watched the green trees transform into what appeared to be trees bearing giant red fruit.  As more and more birds arrived the trees started to resemble the red flamboyant trees in the island s and as the sun descended the island was nearly one shade of red.  Because we have such cheap and useless cameras we of course have nothing but grainy, poorly lighted and absolutely dreadful pictures.  So sad our good friend Trish decided she would not accompany us.  Her 200mm SLR would have had a hay-day. 
In the morning we awoke before the sun was up and we quietly went on deck to listen as the morning quiet was transformed into a cacophony of sounds when the Ibis started to wake up.  As with the night before a few birds here and a few birds there started flying off to points unknown.  Then as the sky lit a bit more formations of birds emerged and flew into the distance.  In the distance a motor was heard and a Warao Indian came rushing past the island to get a better look at us, and the great flock arose and dispersed into the morning sky. 
Pictures to follow, once we get enough bandwidth to send some, but to be honest they are not so good.