Human Condition: Herons in the neighborhood _lowres

 

It was early morning, and I had just finished reading Danny Heitman’s latest birding adventure. Lowering the paper, I glanced outside across the lake and my eyes locked on an unexpected, motionless shape in a tree.

A second bird joined the first. I got the binoculars. Big and long-legged, herons surely, but which kind?

The lady of the house looked, too.

I banged the patio door open. “Come quick! They’re beautiful!”

“But I’m not dressed!”

“The neighbors won’t care! Come on.”

She hesitated two seconds and then put on her old French terry robe and joined me on the patio for a closer look. We stood there with tilted heads staring up at the visitors.

“What are they?”

“Yellow Crowned Night Herons!”

“I don’t see any yellow.”

I ran back into the house to a bookshelf where the bird books are kept. I flipped a few pages. There! Taking the book with me, I ran to the patio again.

The birds were still there, as fixed on us as we were fixed on them. One moved gingerly, raising a foot ever so slowly and repositioning it a little further down the tree limb. They move like that when stalking prey in water, too.

A squirrel had taken note of the herons, and with a lot of agitated barking, tail jerking and running around, he was making his displeasure known. This was exciting stuff. About now, someone reading this is saying, “Please. Yellow Crowned Night Herons are not exactly endangered species in Baton Rouge.”

True, but herons are not the norm in our neighborhood. We get our share of mockingbirds, woodpeckers, three kinds of dove, sparrows and cardinals. Like people, they fight, posture, make love, eat and drink. Like people, they make good decisions and poor ones.

Recently, a red-tailed hawk dropped out of the sky with lightning speed and scooped up a meal. With hardly a pause, it ascended and was gone, leaving behind a scattering of feathers where a dove had been moments before. I would rather hawks not deplete my supply of dove — I love their lonesome, throaty calls — but I doubt posting “no hunting” signs would do much good.

The migrating season has brought all kinds of birds, known and unknown. Cardinals, hummingbirds, red-wing blackbirds, hawks and some I can’t pin down.

Reading Heitman’s column, it’s easy to believe birders have more fun than anyone else. But if we can’t be out there with him, we can at least raise our eyes now and then wherever we are.

I Meant to do my Work Today

By Richard Le Gallienne

“I meant to do my work today

But a brown bird sang in the apple tree,

And a butterfly flitted across the field,

And all the leaves were calling me.

And the wind went sighing over the land,

Tossing the grasses to and fro

And a rainbow held out its shining hand …

So what could I do but laugh and go?”

— Hinojosa lives in Baton Rouges

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