Tuesday, May 1, 2012

New: The iBis 2.0 and Philandering Phalaropes

Until last week, the White-Faced Ibis were still shy, irregular birds in the Phoenix-area marshes. They stayed far away, were skittish, and their batteries ran out way too quickly, much like other Apple products.

Here's the older model: an amazing thing in itself, but not the finished product, not the final form.

With spring now getting off its fanny, Apple has introduced a new model. The iBis 2.0 seems to have replaced those timid, duller colored birds all around Phoenix now. Where there might have been two or three scrawny birds standing in the murk there are now dozens and dozens, with many more still flying overhead. They're shinier, they're hip, they combine the color and iridescence of songbirds with the ungainly and endearing frame of a wader. In short, these new iBis 2.0s are much more user friendly, and they've been great fun to observe.

It helps that there's been an algae bloom in lots of the recharge ponds around Phoenix too. These oft-desolate basins are now packed with color, even if it is an unearthly shade of green. Stare at this snapshot for too long and one might even feel like one's left earth altogether. If you do float off, not to worry, like other great Apple products, the iBis 2.0 has a nifty GPS.

The iBis are not the only birds sporting a new look and attitude. I was very lucky to see a Red-Necked Phalarope at the Glendale Recharge Ponds a few weeks ago, and now the same ponds are serving as a rendezvous point for little groups of Wilson's Phalarope.

Here's a pair of males enjoying some quality guy time as they chat about mustaches, engines, stock portfolios, etc.

Phalaropes are an interesting family of birds. They've taken the Sadie Hawkins Dance and turned it into a lifestyle with their typical gender roles reversed. The female Phalaropes are larger and more aggressive than the males. They also have much bolder plumage during the breeding season:

Just like at a Sadie Hawkins dance, the lady Phalaropes pursue and try to entice the males with their whimsical wicked wiles. Once they lay their clutch of eggs, the females depart and leave the males to incubate the eggs.

There were about two dozen Phalaropes at the Recharge Ponds on Sunday evening. This male arrived a little late to the mixer, perhaps due to his extensive application of rouge, but he soon integrated himself into the party.

It looked like they were having a charming little gala, but even Phalarope parties can get crashed, and in this case the crashers were some precocious Mallard chicks. It was kinda funny that the Mallard chicks were almost as big as the adult, breeding-plumage Phalaropes.