Tuesday, March 2, 2010

March 2: Herons

Watching herons stalk their prey is a lesson in patience. Oblivious of onlookers, the heron ever... so... slowly... moves each foot forward, its gaze fixed on something in the water or grass. If the bird is in deeper water, it may simply stand there staring down into the murky depths. It's like watching someone meditate, so intently is the bird focused, so completely in the present moment. For the birder, it's a meditation on a meditation. The bird stalks so carefully, for long, drawn-out minutes. Then, just as you're about to lose interest and look away, bang! The bird strikes. For a brief moment, a bug or little fish squiggles in the bird's bill. You see the bird swallow and it continues on to seek out its next target. With that care and attention, I'm sure the bird doesn't miss often.

On Sanibel Island over the past three days we saw the following species of heron or egret: great blue heron, little blue heron, tricolored heron, snowy egret, cattle egret, great egret, green heron, reddish egret, and yellow-crowned night heron. This time of year, the main activities of these birds--other than croaking at each other--seems to be this interminable quest for food. Depending on the species, we saw them wading in the salt estuaries, picking among the mangroves, or patrolling the roadsides.

Slow, stalking heron
inching through the mangrove roots:
patience rewarded.

Little blue heron

Yellow-crowned night-heron

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