Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Blended Heron Family

             Wading birds, I've seen my share.
            I carry the glasses, the new small lightweight ones, in my hand and am ready to see a heron pop out of the marsh grass just around the bend in the path where he's sprung and surprised me, winging gracefully and disappearing remarkably swiftly, the last few times I've gone looking for him. Of course, now that I'm ready none does.
            I stand on the trail and work on focusing the glasses. I put them down and there he is, only much farther away this time, over toward the little wooded rise called Callahan Park. Looking all the world like the classic Great Blue Heron, he flies only a little ways, then drops into some grass tall enough to hide him. I try to focus the glasses on the place where I saw him drop and immediately the bird lifts up again and flies directly into the eye of my glasses. He flies another hundred feet before dropping again into greater concealment. No reason for him to come out again until I'm gone.
            So this is my amusement for today, I think. A brief, tantalizing turn on the stage of salt marsh.
            I walk on to the new works-of-man osprey nesting platform. It's big -- and rather absurdly close to my path. So far no bird has gone near it. I spy, however, a vertical lumpish sort of shape behind it, possibly a creature sitting on a rock. I'm getting good at identifying heron postures with the naked eye. When I look with the glasses though I can't find it. However while I'm looking that way, I'm distracted by the arrival of the first heron (at least some heron) flying directly across my naked-eye field of vision. I lift the glasses to follow his flight and am surprised once more when he drops into the shallow end of the nearby body of marsh grass-bounded low water (locally called a "creek") and takes up a classical wading bird position -- not far, as I am surprised yet again to see, from a Great White Egret, a heron of another color.
            OK, are these two hanging out together now?
            Is this a mixed marriage? The dashing dark-feathered great blue and the elegant all-white egret?
            After watching them do their thing, the heron thing of standing in the water being very still so a fish will mistake their legs for grass, I turn the glasses back to that lump on a stone behind the osprey platform, find it this time, and discover there a highly condensed heron, squatting down in its crouched, sitting-tight position: Nothing much to do; I'll just wait here until I am mysteriously moved to do something else. It's hard to see the markings on this bird. I wonder if its squatness signifies some other species, a Night Heron maybe. Not a blue, then? Grayish, its neck doubled down to the shoulders. My world is thrown into doubt.
            And then I notice, right behind this figure, another white egret.
            So are these guys species swapping?
            I put the glasses back on the heron in the water and as I observe him a very small white egret -- yet another egret, probably one of this year's newbies -- walks up to the tall dark heron and pauses. Then the tall one thrusts his beak down to the small one: the class bird-parent feeding gesture. I'm not sure if it was real feeding or just a gesture. Possibly he is just standing there holding a tiny fish, or something, in his long beak waiting for a babe to walk by.
            I'm seeing more white smalls over by the squat heron side of things now too. And then a line of small water fowl -- ducks! What are ducks doing here? Is this a parliament of fowls?
            I am wholly uncertain. Doubt weakens all my judgments
            That so-called "first heron" has no visible crest feather slanting rakishly off his head. Could he actually be some kind of ibis (the which I have never seen here)?
            Only one thing seems certain. The only kind of big bird I am (almost) sure I have not seen hanging around the osprey nest platform is an osprey.