ibis nestSydney, Australia - November 2019
African ibises were once worshipped and associated with Thoth, an ancient Egyptian deity often depicted with a man’s body and the head of an ibis. God of wisdom, writing, science, art and the dead, his worship inspired people to embalm thousands of ibises’ corpses in bird-shaped sarcophagi. Today, their Australian sister species is disparagingly referred to as dumpster divers, flying rats, tip turkeys or bin chickens for their habit of scavenging in cities’ trash. I remembered being amazed at first sight by their beauty, but a local friend quickly stained my wonder by telling me that these were merely the native pigeons - “you don’t touch those” he said. Nevertheless, their elegant long beak, walking gestures, black-tipped appendages, and stunning underwing red skin charmed me. As I wandered in Sydney’s Botanical Garden, odd pig-like shouts were made audible. Was there a farm? I tracked them down and discovered a flock of white ibises occupying several trees. On neighbouring branches, a group of rainbow lorikeets chipped collectively. Their calls were regularly obscured by aerial grunts stemming from the canopy - from which white ibises’ heads would peeked out occasionally. The voices of the formerly sacred beasts did not match their grace as they barked energetically at one another with cries that rather suggested the presence of broken kazoos or swine-goose chimaeras.