Thursday, February 21, 2013

Great Blue Heron

A few weeks ago,
I was walking my dogs a block from my house
when a Great Blue Heron drifted overhead 
and landed on the street in front of my neighbor's house.
I had never seen a shore bird alight on the street before,
much less stand and eat the remains of a fast food sandwich 
that had been run over after someone dropped it from their car.
It was in the early afternoon, so there was no traffic,
and the heron stayed a long time finishing
 its convenience meal before taking flight.

photo courtesy of

Then yesterday, a blue heron flew very low over my car
as I was driving home.
For a large, long-necked, long-legged bird, they are surprisingly elegant.
"All about Birds" has an eloquent description of herons.
It is so beautiful, I'm including it here:

Whether poised at a river bend 
or cruising the coastline with slow, deep wingbeats,
 the Great Blue Heron is a majestic sight. 
This stately heron with its subtle blue-gray plumage 
often stands motionless as it scans for prey 
or wades belly deep with long, deliberate steps. 
They may move slowly, but Great Blue Herons 
can strike like lightning to grab a fish or snap up a gopher. 
In flight, look for this widespread heron’s tucked-in neck 
and long legs trailing out behind.

(Click on the Cornell Lab link above for more information
about the Great Blue Heron.)

photo courtesy of

Not much about The Cornell Lab of Ornithology description above
was news to me, but I confess I've never heard of a Great Blue Heron
"snapping up a gopher." 
That sounds like way more than a mouthful,
even if they may be referring to what is called 
a small "pocket gopher" or a ground squirrel.

Spotting white egrets or blue herons flying overhead
or wading in the river, lakes, and marshes near my house
always seems like a special event.
Maybe it's because of the graceful, undulating curve of their neck
or their long angular legs, or maybe their dusky blue coloring.
Whatever the reason, they are a bird to watch.
Especially if a gopher happens to be around.

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