Vision Bird: The One That Got Away

Magnificent Frigatebirds, Little Torch Key, lower Florida Keys

In my article Vision Bird I describe how I found a bird that I’d been visualizing and hoping to photograph for three years. And when I found it boy did I photograph it well. The story I haven’t yet told is about my other Vision Bird: the one that got away.

One of the first things I learned to do as a birder and photographer is to make lists. Lists for species I saw, species I photographed, and species that I hoped to see and photograph some day. Most birders I know have several lists, some hundreds of species long, depending on where they’ve been and where they want to go. It’s almost confusing!

Not for me. I have two birds on my list. One I got; the other got away, twice! It’s a bird I never mention because I don’t want to jinx it but I’ve been thinking about this bird since I first got into photography in the year 2000. I came close to spotting it on a raptor trip to Maryland in the Fall of 2001. Last minute change of plans squelched those chances.

In Florida plans to put myself in the same geographic location as this bird was a real possibility in 2010. I actually allowed myself to get excited about it. But like the time in Maryland, my hopes, and now my dreams, were dashed.

This past Christmas I allowed myself to open my field guides and study this bird once again. It was as beautiful and charming as ever. I even saw a few new record shots of some interesting nesting/mating behavior that were adorable and endearing. Just looking at this bird’s face and into its eyes fills me with an almost urgent need to see it. To be in its presence must feel overwhelming. To have it look me in the eye as my Plover did on that Sanibel beach must be a lifetime treat. As a bone is the highlight of a dog’s day, it would be a highlight of my life.

Every photographer I know has a favorite species to photograph, one they love for one reason or another. But not every photographer has the patience to wait for theirs as I continue to wait for mine. This is no common bird I wait on.  I don’t speak of it or its species. I sometimes don’t even allow myself to think about it. I have to accept that I may not ever see it. And that’s a thought that breaks my heart. I have waited nearly two decades for this bird. I choose to be hopeful and wait two more decades if I have to. And I will.

I’m ever the optimist! This is a native bird with a big range. It could realistically migrate my way one year. Anything is possible. If my bird does make an appearance I’ll photograph it and I’ll photograph it well.