Why’s it so herony?

pair of great blue herons Ardea herodias under overpass
I went back to one of my old haunts a short time back, meeting with a student that lived nearby, and arrived a little early, so I poked around a bit because it’s very professional getting soaked in sweat when you’re about to meet with someone new, you know? Let them see you at your worst, and everything afterward will always be better. I usually don’t brush my teeth either.

great blue heron Ardea herodias with abstract feces stain on rocksAnyway, I’ve been going to this place, off and on, for close to 20 years now, and am used to seeing a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) or two when I’m there. In fact, I think I still have a slide buried in the files of one taking off from a branch overhead, where its wings on the downstroke came and touched themselves in a circle underneath the bird. However, for reasons unknown, the place seemed to be overrun with them this particular day. I was seeing them everywhere I looked, often in multiples. It would be easy to believe I was seeing a nest or three of newly-fledged youngsters, this year’s broods still hanging out and being fed by their folks, but none of them looked like young ones, and none of them were displaying any form of begging behavior, or notably close proximity (save for one pair, below.) I think I stumbled onto a convention, or perhaps a plot.

By the way, I couldn’t resist framing this one alongside some abstract fecal splashes – herons can defecate out some serious loads, and such stains can often be found on favorite perches in the area.

I’ve also seen herons hanging out in popular fishing areas, since they can learn to steal live bait, but I’ve only observed this in Florida, plus the fact that it was a slow day with only two fishing folk visible, and none of the herons being conspicuously close to them. Like usual, they were maintaining a circumspect distance from people; I even spooked one from an overhanging tree when I ventured down onto some rocks in the river for a shot. I can’t speculate on why the numbers were so high this day, is what I’m trying to say. And you should know by now, if I can’t figure it out, no one else is going to have the answer either. In all humility, of course – it’s just facts.

pair of great blue herons Ardea herodias maintaining sentinel on rocks on river
I paid attention to the news for a few days afterward, wondering if there were going to be stories of some kind of incident down at the river, perhaps an alert for everyone to stay in their homes and avoid being seen with fish sandwiches, but nothing ever came of it. It’s entirely possible, I admit, that my presence with the camera, getting recognizable photos of the ringleaders, thwarted something dastardly that would have gone down otherwise. And had I not been such a well-known and easily-missed public figure in this region, I might have disappeared myself that day for the very same reason. You never know.

Or, they may have been forced to keep their distance due to the reek of body odor. Have to consider all of the plausible scenarios.

pair of great blue herons Ardea herodias peeking up over tall reeds