A Noble Passion

It had been a bit of a sad time, even here in the wonderful land of Oz. The imminent passing of a very close friend’s terminally ill son, and the world’s loss of some of its greatest musical brilliance had muted the colors a bit for me. Anxiety and depression have always been a part of my life and they will rear their hideous heads when they can. And they had, although understandably so.

So yesterday I was just plugging along being, “okay” when I got a text from my buddy, Philip Peel (met through Facebook- I am SO grateful).

He said, “Hey mate, Phalarope at WTP now! Meet you there lol.”

I asked, “Where?”

“T section pond 5. It’s on Facebook Vic Birders. Photos too.”

John Harris had seen it that morning while he was doing water testing for frog surveys. He said he had only picked up his binoculars for about five minutes and happened to notice the bird. Michael Ramsey had posted the sighting on the Birdline Victoria and Victorian Birders Facebook pages. I was on the computer doing planning for our upcoming travels and wasn’t watching FB. I called Philip and got more of the scoop. He was on his way and in about five minutes, so were we.

Lynn and I raced (at the speed limit, but not a smidge under) up the M1 to the WTP. We arrived at the T-section and could see some other vehicles by pond 5. I saw Philip. I saw our friend Jenny Stephens as well. But there was no Red-necked Phalarope to be seen. We kept looking. In the meantime, Lynn got her lifer Spotless Crake in the Crake Pond and other birders arrived. Still no pharaope, we left that pond and widened our search out into the other ponds of the T-section and Western Lagoons. We searched, but we did not find.

I am a firm believer in “keep checking where the bird was last seen.” So before we gave up, I wanted to return to the area of pond 5. So did Philip and his family. As Lynn was locking the gate behind us, I saw Philip by Pond 7. He was with other birders and he was looking intently. Any experienced birder can “bird birders.” That is, to know what is going on at a distance by body language and actions. I knew they were looking at the bird. Then Philip waved to us. Bingo. I was incredibly grateful.

We drove over to the pond and were soon on the lovely little bird swimming low in the water amongst the other waders. Dwarfed by the stilts, it was swimming erratically to and fro as phalaropes tend to do. Once spotted, it really stood out. It is very possible that Philip and I had seen it earlier, farther away in this pond, but it had flown before we could get the scope on it. That is not important, we did see it in the end and I am very grateful. The light was horrible for photography, but that is also not important. It is about the bird and the friends. Here are some recording shots...

Red-necked Phalarope, Pond 7 in the T Section of the Western Treatment Plant.

Dwarfed amongst the Stilts (Banded and Black-winged)
We saw other friends there, and hugs were shared as we all shared this special bird. Just before leaving we did a Lifer Selfie with our friend Michael Gooch. I wish we had thought of it whilst Philip and Jenn were still there. It would have been great to have them in it as well. These are friends that I have come to know through birding and through our Facebook connection. I am so grateful. I have heard this morning that more friends saw the phalarope after we left and quite a few went back this morning and had excellent views in Pond 5. 
Michael Gooch, Lynn and me in the Red-necked Phalarope Lifer Selfie (and yes, Lynn and I had Lifer Pie in the form of ice cream treats on a stick later that evening).
In closing I am going to quote our friend Jenn Stephens who we met for the first time on the pelagic out of Port Fairy. In a Facebook comment yesterday she said:

“Isn't birding a noble passion? It was great to sail the mighty seas one week ago with yourself and Lynn, only to bump into you both today. I love the fact we can all share so selflessly in this interest we all have a common belief in. Thanks all for your kindness, company and generous spirit. I 'flew' home smiling all the way.”

So did we, Jenn. So did we. I am smiling right now and I am so very grateful for that bird, and for you and the other dear friends that birds have brought us. Noble Passion indeed!

Birds. Peace. Love. Earth. Laughter. Music.