In Pursuit of the Green Heron
I had set several goals at the outset of the summer season to concentrate on. Most of them, like my desire to take one of those artful super detailed hummingbird pictures, remain bullet points on my hope list still waiting for nature to bless me with opportunity. If your listening Nature; this is not a veiled compliant lest you think me ungrateful, I am just fine trying to hit the knuckle balls you serve up so unexpectedly on my days in the fields and swamps. Many Thanks!
The unpredictability of this nature photography business is at the heart of it's continuing attraction for me. That being said, there are certain birds, like the Green heron (Butorides virescens), that are agonisingly common yet so fleet and shadowy that what pictures there are of them in my portfolio amount to a collection of mostly near miss, out of focus brown smudges. What gives?
Why is this bird such a hard nut to crack?
My pursuit of Green herons goes back seven years when I purchased my country home on the Pine River as a down payment on my retirement years. Even though I am essentially and more or less contentedly a city boy born and bred on the East side of Detroit, I felt like I needed a hermitage; a place to hide out, to know nature.
Tough town Detroit. I was 14 in 1967 during the Summer Riots when the top blew off Motown, the smoke and gunfire has been a constant companion ever since. Much time was spent in the auto factories and the dingy stamping plants that hammered out rolled steel into fenders. I did not have to serve in the military during the Vietnam war years as my brothers did. There was a draft lotto back then and based on your birthday you received a number 1 through 365. Receiving a "1" meant you and everyone else who shared your birthday would be drafted first. The balls were drawn in a bazaar ceremony where your fate was sealed one way or the other; my ball read 325. I traveled the world instead of going to war between my 17th and 23rd years. Coming back home to stay, the travel bug gone, I hung up my backpack. Through the tangled years I held the fantasy of living on a river and breaking free of my crumbling city. The second I stepped foot on this river property I knew I wanted to be part of it. I acted on that impulse.
It was the call of the wild.
It was the call of the wild.
A Green Heron lived on the near bank amongst the jumble of high grass and tree limbs of the Rio Pine when I first called this home. The road to my little house pokes into the Chippewa Nature Area putting me smack inside 1400 acres of unfenced back to nature wetland forest. It was all new and open to me, a great and barely comprehensible playground. I was a door slammer in those days. Every time I excitedly went outside I scared the bejeebies out of every living thing a quarter mile around. The herons especially seemed to know my every move for even when I intended to silently creep up to the high bank and peer over off they'd fly before my hand ever left the door knob. It didn't take me long to realise I had jumped into the deep end of this nature thing and I needed to discover a different kind of silence if I wanted to be more than a clumsy disturbance in this old school neighborhood.
Getting close to a Green heron on the Pine River became the litmus test for my emerging mindset. This could not be rushed.
In this world you get where your going one day at a time.
One could spend a happy lifetime studying Green herons so deep and beautiful are their mysteries. The neck of this bird immediately sets it apart. It folds perfectly and invisibly into the torso morphing the bird into the shape of a chubby gull. Then, whether the neck is unfolded slowly and puffed up in a romantic gesture or explosively catapulted forward spearing a minnow, the spectacle is an unexpected pleasure.
Consider this Green heron controversy some starry night round the campfire...
There are thought to be rare genius level Green herons who have discovered how to bait fish. It has been observed these herons using feathers, bugs, and such articles as they can find to drop on the waters surface from above to attract the curious and hungry minnows upward from the depths. This is tool usage; a very rare occurrence with birds and demonstrates a rising intelligence. Crows also seem to be making this quantum leap forward. They have been seen purposefully dropping walnuts onto busy roads shelling them for easy consumption by using the passing cars as their nutcrackers!
Is this emerging behavior an example of the evolutionary process working it's magic on the Green heron and crow? Have they touched the monolith ala Kubrick's 2001 Space Odyssey?
No matter your opinion on these issues, how could you not love a bird that poses such intriguing questions?
Joe the Bird Whistler was up to my house recently working on mastering the finer aspects of the Canon Dslr. As he sat quietly on the high bank above the river Joe spotted a Green heron hunting for minnows in the river grass. He waved me over and gave me the heads up. Even then it was tough to see, so well camouflaged was our birds movements through the reeds. We watched for awhile, I asked Joe for the camera and whispered,"I'm going to try and get closer." The high bank on my side of the river is a steep drop of about twenty feet. As quietly and peacefully as I could scuttle down, the first step would be making the shoreline. The Green heron remained steadfast, continuing to stalk the shallows when I finally made the tall grass of the bank. Oh, he knew I was there alright. The line of sight was cluttered with green as I crept closer and closer, a clear view continuing to escape me, my arms growing heavy with the exertion of holding a steady camera while expecting the bird to flush any second. Finally I sat and rested, the heron so close I could have bent over and kissed him. There was a sense of relief when he flew off to the opposite shore.
It is said: You can take the boy out of the city but you can't take the city out of the boy. That's probably why the next morning, still hung over with the transcendence of my close encounter, I forgot and slammed the door on my way out. Joe says I'm still not fully evolved!
Pray tell: Why isn't the Green heron green?
Now it's time for World Bird Wednesday!
This is the home of World Bird Wednesday. A place for bird photographers from around the world to gather and share their photographs and experiences as they pursue Natures most beautiful treasurers, the birds.
World Bird Wednesday will be open for posting at 12 noon Tuesday EST North America through midnight on Wednesday.
#1. Simply copy the above picture onto your W.B.W. blog entry. It contains a link for your readers to share in WBW. Or you can copy this link on to your blog page to share W.B.W. http://pineriverreview.blogspot.com/
#2. Come to The Pine River Review on Tuesday Noon EST North America through Wednesday midnight and submit your blog entry with Linky.
#3. Check back in during the course of the next day and explore these excellent photoblogs!
The idea of a meme is that you will visit each others blogs and perhaps leave a comment to encourage your compadres!
Come on it's your turn!