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A Pond in the Early Morning

A multitude of meaningful moments and even life changing events occur by happenstance. Sometimes paths may cross because of a random decision, leading to a lifelong relationship or a life changing event. Sometimes it's just a turn left instead of a turn right, and we stumble across a deer standing with a herd of cattle

or a child playing in a sprinkler or a baby Kildeer skittering around in its funny little Kildeer fashion in the middle of a highway u-turn. Not life changing events, but mood changing events. Those that are small and easy to overlook if we’re too busy, too stressed, too focused on the days agenda to notice. These few minutes or even few seconds worth of distraction can change our outlook and perhaps improve our productivity, our compassion, and our sense of good in the world. Sometimes it’s because a stranger in a strange land, says “I see you are not from here. Let me show you our community, our home. We are very proud of our culture”. Sometimes it’s a stranger in our own community that says “I see your photos and I think you might be interested in this”.

As I occasionally post local bird photos on our neighborhood Next Door App, wonderful neighbors who I don’t “know” have come to “know” me. Twice now, people have reached out and messaged me with a cool sighting that I absolutely would have missed without them. I also would have missed these without taking the time to follow up on their lead.

One of these was the sighting of Egyptian Geese on the golf course in the neighborhood. I had no idea we had any Egyptian Geese in our neighborhood. Even though I know there are feral populations that thrive in the Houston area, I had never personally seen and been able to photograph them - really cool birds with a distinctive ring around the eyes and a patch on the chest. I was thrilled to avoid the golfers (apparently we’re not supposed to walk on the course if not golfing!), enjoy the beauty of these birds, and get some good shots.

These exotic birds (more closely related to Shelducks than geese) were revered in ancient Egypt. They were brought to the US to decorate ornamental ponds, and our non-native populations are a result of escapees who established feral colonies . A few minutes of effort and I had that moment of meaning and some nice shots, all thanks to someone taking the time to send me a message.

A few days later I received a message from another "friend I’ve never met", telling me about a pond down a nearby country road where there are Roseate Spoonbills. We have a lot of herons and egrets nearby that are common to the coast, but rarely do I see a spoonbill without traveling to Galveston or other areas. The next morning, I headed out early, hoping to catch some good sunrise lighting. I traveled down the first backroad that everyone in the neighborhood uses as a cut through to I-10 and then turned left where I usually turn right. Following her directions, I kept my eye out on the south side of the country road, looking for the pond. I crossed a creek, wondering if that was it, but spotted no birds, only a fisherman. I continued on, meeting a few cars, and passed by a few drivers who were annoyed by my slow speed (yes birders and photographers can be annoying, lol).

Suddenly to my left, there it was, a large meandering pond filled with Roseate Spoonbills, Little Blue Herons, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Great Blue Herons, Cormorants, White Ibis, Great Egrets, Black-Necked Stilts, and pastoral scenery.

I pulled my big red pickup truck (why didn’t I get a camo green one?!) off the edge of the paved, but narrow road, grabbed my camera, and made my way through the grass and weeds to the fence line. I wish I had brought a lawn chair and just hung out there for hours watching the birds and annoying the drivers looking at the weirdo on the side of the road. Probably more annoying than birders and photographers are retirees who have time to do this, while others are heading off to corporate America for a day of stress - been there, done that!

The sun, just sufficiently above the horizon, created perfect reflections in the water. It was also already warm and incredibly humid and my lens fogged when I stepped out of the air conditioned truck. After a few minutes of staring through a fogged lens, I committed the ultimate photographer sin and wiped it off on my shirt! I got lucky, it didn’t smear badly. Every time I put the camera to my eye, it was so humid that my glasses fogged. Annoying!! When my camera is in my hand, I really have to remind myself how important it is to enjoy the magic of the moment in real time, not always in the pursuit of a shot. My spouse and traveling companion often reminds me of that (there is a term “photography widow” for a reason). I managed to absorb the beauty in real time and also get some shots I really love.

I’m in awe of all the water birds, but it is a special visual celebration to experience the bright pink of the Roseate Spoonbills. The Roseate is one of six types of spoonbills, the only one found in North America, and the only one that is pink instead of white.

Their feathers are pink and white and their heads a yellowish-green color which actually goes bald with age. Their bills are very distinct, large and broad, thus its name. They sweep this big flat bill from side to side as they wade through shallow water and when a small water creature touches the inside of the bill it snaps shut. On that morning about half of the spoonbills were feeding and half were preening. All were exquisite.

A pond in the early morning, magical moments, moments of beauty and appreciation, moments that made me want to be a better me.

Thank you to my "friend I've never to met" for my magical moments one morning on a country road.

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