Nature Notebook – It’s Heron’s Turn

By: Joel E. Byrne

This happened Sunday October 2, 2005 at “The Pool” (my nickname for the spot).

It was early October, a time of great change in Lanark Highlands. The colours were coming! I was touring the byways searching for early patches of crimson leaves. The close of day found me standing on a riverbank completely enraptured by the play of light and shadows on a limpid pool. Suddenly, a huge feathered creature came into view, gliding swiftly down the river valley, wheeling and plunking down awkwardly in the crown of a silver maple. Ah, a Great Blue Heron. After this undignified landing, it stretched its neck to full length the better to survey its dining table— the swift water and eddies of the Mississippi River where it narrows to the Playfairville rapids.

I watched the heron, it watched me. I had my trusty 7×50 binoculars at hand, but did not raise them, because the previous day I’d learned a lesson. This heron (and here I presume it was the same heron that has steadfastly returned day after day to this very spot) was not at all happy about being stared at by binoculars. Such an intrusion seemed to agitate it. In fact I’ve concluded that my ogling of it the day before forced it to try to stare me down; when this failed it crouched, shifted from foot to foot several times, and flapped off in a huff, giving me a baleful look.

That wasn’t going to happen again. Heron had been working his way down to this productive spot where he could enjoy the last rays of the sun, and check out the fishing. He was still hungry and there were plenty of fish and frogs; he would have no trouble filling his belly. All he had to do was wade quietly, and wait. Concentrate, then stab with speed and precision. No distractions needed. He did not relish a huge pair of glassy eyes following his every move, stalking the stalker, so to speak. Heron fished best alone. I climbed the bank, got into the car, and drove away slowly, leaving the windows down on the river side, listening to its rush. I will be back, as well as heron, and we will share the river’s hospitality, in peace.

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