It was a gorgeous Wednesday morning in August. Eight-o’clock, sunny, cool enough for a sweatshirt, not a cloud in the endless blue sky… I walked along at my usual brisk clip, all alone, crunching on the gravel of the dirt road, enjoying the sun on my face and the breeze in my hair. No camera, no binoculars to slow me down. Turns out, I didn’t need the binoculars!
I almost missed him. Just rounding the bend, giving the pond on the left a cursory glance for signs of wildlife friends, I came to an abrupt halt in the middle of the road. Just to my left, on the edge of the small pond off the road, stood the Great Blue! Focused on holding onto his breakfast, the heron didn’t acknowledge me, as he bent over his meal. Of all the times to leave the camera home!
I stood still, watching the statuesque bird moving his bill and neck, stretching up, then leaning down, as he struggled to gather the frog’s legs in its mouth, as breakfast tried to escape. Finally, the heron prevailed. I watched, mesmerized, as he swallowed once, moving the frog in his throat. “Where’s my camera?”, I moaned silently, watching him swallow again to get the frog down. I noticed the length of his bill, opening and closing, in rhythm with his swallowing. Stretching his long neck toward the sky, for one final gulp, he finished, then turned toward me.
Assuming he was about to take off, I tried not to breathe. I stood perfectly still, with bugs flitting in my ears, the sun heating up my head, my nose itching and some large bird I didn’t dare look at soaring just overhead! Hoping to prolong our ‘visit’, with all thoughts of a camera long gone, the beginnings of an article for Audubon whispered in the back of my mind. Would he stay a little longer, if I didn’t move?
Yes! Stretching his long legs, the heron began to stalk around the pond, actually moving toward me, then turning away as he followed the curve of the pond. First one leg, then the other, bending at its knobby knees, slowly, slowly…peeking over the grass at the pond’s edge, looking for another frog?? All the way around the pond, he stalked, stopping every now and then, to put one foot or his bill in the pond. He waded in a few steps, then moved back and continued his circling, finally coming to a stop, across the pond from me. And then I heard it…
I didn’t need to look. It was Wednesday, garbage day! The garbage truck was coming, rumbling slowly along, coming up the hill behind me! I stood my ground, in the middle of the road, quietly willing the truck to slow down. The heron stood, too. I frantically tried to wave the truck down, wiggling my hand behind my back, and slowly moving to the left, first one foot, then the other. The truck slowed, but the heron flew off across the yard.
My husband drove up right after that, ‘just checking’ since I was gone for so long. I continued on my walk then, but the heron had returned on my way back. I watched him a bit longer, as he caught a fish to finish his breakfast. At home, I realized that I spent over 45 minutes, standing almost completely still, watching, and learning about herons.
I went back the next day, with my camera (and my husband)! Alas, no heron. As I snapped pictures of the pond, Gary wondered, “What are you taking pictures of? There’s nothing there!” I replied, “Oh yes, there is!”
I learned a lot that Wednesday morning in August. Most of all, I learned that sometimes technology keeps us from seeing. I would have taken my pictures and moved on, if I had my camera. Without it, I took away so much more.
Article and photo by Melinda Cormier
Warblings, Fall 2017