Fingers crossed

No, that’s superstitious – let’s just say I’m hoping for the best, or at least the better than average.

I went over to the neighborhood pond today, in part just to see how a new bag situation was working – long story, but a shoulder-slung bag has been bothering my back, so I’m investigating other options, and this time around it was a sling bag. Yes, I know it’s still shoulder-slung, but it sits higher and has a broader strap, plus the bulk of the weight is now on my opposite shoulder, so we’ll see how it works out.

One of the other reasons was to see if the green herons (Butorides virescens) were showing yet, since I’m hoping to catch the nesting behavior; we’ve had nests for the past two years, but generally I’ve only known this when the fledglings had already left and were simply hanging around in its general vicinity, and I’m trying to get ahead of the game this year. It wasn’t long before I spotted one, the first of the season, flying a short distance away to perch on a lower branch partially obscured by the tree’s trunk. I started edging around, and the heron was peeking out just enough to see me and lean back out of sight. Or what it thought was out of sight, anyway – it would get its eye back enough not to see me, thinking this was sufficient and not accounting for its long beak (or hoping that this was subtle enough to pass notice.)

green heron Butorides virescens barely peeking from behind trunk
That’s expressive, but we need a closer look for detail.

green heron Butorides virescens showing very edge of eye
If you look right against the trunk, you can just make out the barest edge of its eye. There’s no question that it was watching me and leaning back out until it could no longer see my torso, since it not only did this multiple times, it kept leaning further back as I slowly maneuvered for a better look. Eventually, I just stepped a little more quickly out around the tree (still at some distance – this is at 600mm and cropped further) to get a clear pic.

green heron Butorides virescens slightly better view
It didn’t tolerate this for very long, and soon flew off to a safer location, but it didn’t matter: I had evidence that one, at least, had returned, and could now keep a wary eye out for nesting behavior.

The day was chilly, and I had no intention of being out very long since I’d dressed in the belief that it was warmer, but then another green heron was spotted, and I stalked that one, which turned out to be a lot less wary. Just so you know, this is full frame, no cropping at all:

green heron Butorides virescens holding still
This one was counting on its camouflage and total stillness, and I was able to creep fairly close and even sit down for more stability, thus this nice portrait. After a moment though, now that I was nearly motionless myself and as close as I intended, it started to get a little more anxious and took a few quick steps, crest now raised:

wary green heron Butorides virescens stepping away with crest raised
Now, this might have been from deciding that my behavior wasn’t kosher, or realizing that I was indeed aware of its presence, or it might have been from the swimming approach of a Canada goose, which was admittedly closer (and tending towards territorial.) I can’t say either way, but it soon flew off. I had both the proof and the pics I needed though, so no biggie.

Coming back, I spotted some movement within the thick trees that I suspect held the heron nests last year, and stopped to observe it. The bird was quickly revealed as being far too small, but I struggled for a clear look, determining that it had no intention of letting me obtain this. I shrugged and moved on, yet almost immediately another with a beak full of nesting material flew in to the same location. This prompted me to try again, and with much dodging of intervening branches and foliage (and switching the focus to manual because autofocus would have grabbed everything but the bird,) I managed a couple more portraits.

gray catbird Dumetella carolinensis with nesting material
This is a gray catbird (Dumetella carolinensis,) and I couldn’t tell you the gender since their plumage is indistinguishable, except that it seemed marginally larger than the other so that usually indicates female. It was obviously a companion of the first that I’d spotted, and they both watched me warily while waiting until it was safe to approach their nest location in that tree.

gray catbird Dumetella carolinensis with tiny sprig of nest material
This one doesn’t seem to be putting the effort in, but it was a nicer portrait. There was no doubt as to the identification, but one of them vented a couple of the quiet, mewing calls that gave them their common name, just to confirm. I soon left them alone to complete their nest, and perhaps I’ll make the attempt in a couple of weeks to find it and observe their rearing behavior.

So, yeah, nice bit of progress and good omens for a brief, casual outing. No complaints on my end.