Herons and Ducks: If they were human I could make sense of them


Except for the odd eagle, bear or deer, we see few animal stars on Chicken Ridge. (There was that Bohemian Waxwing caught eating fermenting berries in our diminutive Mt. Ash tree—yellow accents brighter than red berries partially covered with fresh snow.) Aki and I must walk to places that draw the marmot, whale, or sea ducks. This morning the little poodle sleeps in a beach house out–the-road where we are house sitting. Two heron fish on the beach, close enough for watching over morning coffee.

L1210099One arrives first, gliding on its great wide wings, hovering for an instant, then planting feet without a splash in shallow waters.  He forms a statute of patience, gray body almost disappearing against gray water until morning light strikes the white head feathers. Like Dr. Who’s deadly statutes, the heron changes positions each time I look away but never attempts a catch of fish. The second heron, gliding to a stop 10 feet away from the first, has better luck. In seconds he moves his beak within inches of the water, strikes down until head is submerged , rises up then whips rapidly from side to side.  This happens many times while the first, apparently myopic heron remains upright.

The second heron’s success attracts local scavengers: gulls and an aggressive crow. In minutes both herons move off down the beach.

L1210117Now, just offshore a lone Barrow Golden Eye duck swims about the side of a brightly stripped anchor buoy. The bird acts like its sheltering in the lee of the buoy during a gale but the sea is flat calm.  With more knowledge of people than animals I want to assign a human justification for the things I watched this morning.  Is the duck smitten with the pretty buoy?  Did heron number 1 become angry when number 2 arrived uninvited and like a rude guest  nosily catch fish while a hungry number 1 pretends to look away?

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