I’m passing several great blue herons. Well, not quite passing. These are majestic birds with a 6’+ wingspan. They fold into a body the size of an elongated football with long spindly legs and a longer neck. The unfolding of their blue grey wings is a dramatic moment against a relatively still green background. They live along waterways, spearing fish, insects and small mammals with their beaks. Here on the Passaic, they wait still on downed trees and stones for the right moment to strike.
I approach them from upstream. They’re a visible and distinctive silhouette. Watching me, at the last moment they unfold their great wings and head down stream and away. A half mile later, we repeat; over and over. At one point another joins and they taking off together.
I’ve become a heron herder.
In retrospect, it was obvious. Their wingspan is too great for easy passage through the forest. So they head away from me and downstream. Eventually, perhaps annoyed, they head up high and over the trees, looping back behind me.
The same happens with separate flocks of Canada Geese. Now that’s a show – a dozen big bellied great geese doing their panicked waddle across the water in what seems a doomed effort to get airborne, only to improbably launch out of the water at the last possible moment. They get points for effort with me.