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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Big Blue

Air Date: Week of

(Photo:© Salt Marsh Diary)

On the shallow edge of the marsh, the Great Blue Heron stands. Salt Marsh Diary writer Mark Seth Lender watches, transfixed by the majesty of the large wading bird.


YOUNG: From a tiny beetle – to a huge bird. Writer Mark Seth Lender often sees the Great Blue Heron in the salt marsh near his home – the bird’s a regular presence there. Despite this, and the heron’s unmistakable form and great size – Great Blue’s appearance is always a regal and welcome surprise.

(Photo:© Salt Marsh Diary)

LENDER: Great Blue Heron wears the bleached marsh grasses like a beard. He has made himself small, just there, across the brackish shallow. Stilting at the water’s edge a perfect mirror captures him, reflection joined to the vanishing point, an echo in light.

Big Blue stilting thinks he has rendered himself invisible. He remains frozen in place the way rabbits freeze on the road as if plain absence of motion will protect him. Or is it watchful waiting, and me the Olympian Eagle whose talons are merely folded out of sight? Or do I give myself more credit than I deserve and Heron only ignores me.

(Photo:© Salt Marsh Diary)

Even close approach will not dislodge him. He poses silent and uncaring as a Sun King. Finally, the one who must bow and back away is you. Such is his hegemony.

Of all his kind, he alone braves the snow, wind, the ice, and often pays the price. There comes a time when the deep of February arrives and the mercury turns crystalline, dull and misted in the glass, that most of the noble court of Heron pass.

Those that do survive range to deeper cover. I’ve never discovered exactly where they go. I know there are times when they live in the woods, hunting cat-like for mice and voles when they can find them and for whatever else when they cannot. But among the flooded marshlands it is mostly fishes, and when that flood hardens over and fish cannot be found, cannot be had if they are found, what then does Heron do?

A flash a flare a wind of great wings, Heron’s equally Significant Other flushes from the dry spartina leaping, a cool gray fire.

(Photo:© Salt Marsh Diary)

Hardly the span of a tall man’s arm is between us, she settles like smoke and we stand eye to eye. Now it is me who must remain, transfixed by her flame.

The Mystery of Great Blue Heron and his mate is not solved by science or by sovereignty. They appear, they vanish, they reappear. If the feel of the marsh is emptiness and even the air is still that is the time for patience. Do not hurry. Make no sound. Walking, use stealth. Watching, do not move. When Stillness pursues what is Still, all things are revealed.

[MUSIC: Clare Connors “Flight of The Heron” from Heartlight (Heartlight Creations 2005)]

YOUNG: Mark Seth Lender writes a syndicated column called "Salt Marsh Diary." He watches – and photographs – Great Blue Herons and other assorted wildlife near his home on the Connecticut shoreline.

[MUSIC: Clare Connors “Flight of The Heron” from Heartlight (Heartlight Creations 2005)]



Salt Marsh Diary


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