terça-feira, 31 de março de 2009

The Sacred Ibis

After long hours of driving from East to West, crossing the whole country of South Africa, I arrived in a little city on the Western Cape called Montagu.
In the following morning I woke up early and took my camera for a walk. While exploring the surroundings, I stumbled upon a very curious place in the middle of the city. I was seeing a small ecosystem, inhabited by unique species of birds.
It reminded me of the famous Brazilian Pantanal, the largest tropical wetland in the world. However, this “little Pantanal” was just a strip of land with a small lake in the middle. It was totally void of people, and ruled by several species of birds. For a naturalist it was an amazing view! I quickly identified a few species such as Herons, Cormorants, and the magnificent Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus). This huge bird resides in marshy wetlands and mud flats. It feeds on various fish, snakes, frogs, and other water creatures, as well as insects. The adjective "sacred" comes from Egypt, where it was venerated. During their migration, the Ibis would arrive in Egypt which occurred at the same time as the Nile flood season. This fact is one of the explanations as to why the Egyptians revered the Ibis, because the Nile’s natural flooding would make agriculture possible enabling Egyptian survival. According to historians, these birds were invoked against incursions of serpents, one of their favorite foods. They were often mummified as a symbol of the god Thoth.
Nowadays things have changed . . . The Ibis has been hunted for its meat and feathers, almost to extinction. Because of this, the Ibis and several other species, is now protected by the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds. Here in the little city of Montagu, they are respected. The people became used to them and the city has now a new point of interest. I confess that was a very interesting thing to see and I had a few good shots that morning.

Two Sacred-Ibis flying over the South African city of Montagu

Some of them bring little twigs to build their nest

The Ibis nests in tree colonies, often with other large wading birds such as herons.

Every single twig is inhabited

A Heron prepare for landing...or treeing
Sacred Ibis and Herons are close relatives. Both of them are wading birds and belong to the Ciconiiformes Order.

Cormorants are also found in this little piece of land...

...together with many other small birds.

And all this biodiversity lives side by side with human beings, within the city, harmonicaly.

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