An Ibis Squadron

Returning to South Platte Park this morning, I found that the yellow-rumped warbler invasion had diminished but those active insectivores were still abundant in the trees surrounding Eaglewatch Lake; my official count today was 93, less than a third of my estimate two days ago.  Joining them were an increasing number of summer residents (especially house wrens and yellow warblers) and the usual mix of late spring visitors.  A flock of American white pelicans soared above the refuge, an osprey fished on the open waters and the last of the wintering ducks had apparently left for northern breeding grounds.

This morning's highlight was a squadron of 16 white-faced ibis, moving in tight formation from southwest to northeast.  Having wintered in Mexico or along the Gulf coast, these western ibis are on their way to shallow wetlands across the Northern Plains, stopping to rest and feed on small fish and aquatic invertebrates en route; they generally appear along the Front Range in late April or early May.

Engrossed as I was with counting songbirds on the meadows and in the trees, the appearance of the ibis was both a pleasant diversion and an inspiring sight.  Like the flocks of migrant geese in spring and fall, they evoke a spirit of freedom that most humans can only begin to appreciate.