When we were driving to Texas (nearly twenty years ago), Kurt made a surprise stop in Lafayette, Louisiana to show me something special. It was the Cypress Island Preserve on Lake Martin, an oasis in the midst of developed land, a rookery packed with wading birds.

Cypress Island (photo by Kit Dunsmore)

I was not yet an active birder, so I saw a lot of birds that day that I had never seen before. I had to keep asking Kurt what we were looking at. Fortunately, he knew and was willing to patiently name them all for me.


Our conversation went something like this:

Me: What’s that?
Kurt: A snowy egret.
Me: What’s that?
Kurt: A purple gallinule.
Me: What’s that?
Kurt: A green heron.

Then I spotted a strawberry-shake pink bird in the trees and was flabbergasted. I knew this bird. I’d seen it many times on my visits as a child to the National Zoo.

Not the best picture, but the big blobs are birds. And the pink ones are roseate spoonbills. (Photo by Kit Dunsmore)

“It’s a roseate spoonbill!” I said with delight. I didn’t realize they could be seen in the United States. (I should have read the zoo signs more closely.)

Kurt was dumbfounded. Until I explained how I knew what a roseate spoonbill was, he was half-convinced that I had been pulling his leg. But I wasn’t. I could only identify one bird that we saw that day. It just happened to be a rather unusual one.

I will never forget the wonder I felt at Cypress Island. It was the best surprise I’ve ever had, and getting to see my first wild roseate spoonbill and surprise Kurt in return only makes the memory that much better.

What’s the best surprise you’ve ever had?

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