Toad in the Hole

August 03, 2006


One reason birds are so striking is that most of their colors aren't just pigment. With a few exceptions, those deep, other-dimensional blues and dazzling reds and all that are structural color, produces prismatically by their feathers. The first time I saw a white-faced ibis in good light -- well-lit by the sun behind me -- I was blown away. White-faced ibises look almost exactly like glossy ibises, but for a thin white band curving around the base of the bill in breeding adults. They hang out in fields and damp spots in the San Joaquin Valley and north of here; I've seen them around Davis, and flying across I-5, and in the mid-Valley refuges and in Oregon. And they're one of the big attractions of Sierra Valley, one of our usual day tours from Yuba Pass.

Someday I'll get a good shot of one, but so far these are my best.

This one was limping around a field just off the Marble Springs Road Bridge.

White-faced ibis 1

You can see the lame leg dangling as the bird takes off.

White-faced ibis 2

It didn't seem to slow it down much.

Look at the biggest size of this you can fit on your browser, and dig those iridiscent colors, the burgundy/rust and the blue/green/black/etc. I think this is a juvenile, because the head isn't quite that deep wine color yet.

The most amazing thing I saw about this bird was thirty-plus years ago, when some Audubon Society field trip maven handed an ibis feather around for us all to look at. Every color that's in the bird -- black, blue, indigo, bottle green, deep red, oxblood, iron oxide, burgundy, gold, flashbulb -- was in that feather, as I turned it in the light. A chromatic hologram!

Posted at August 3, 2006 03:36 AM



That second picture is wonderful. You can see the whole line of the creature, that bill, those wings. Really something.

Posted by: Sara at August 3, 2006 02:38 PM

Thanks, Sara. And it was in large part just dumb luck and good old autofocus.

Posted by: Ron at August 5, 2006 01:47 AM