Heron Appeal

My first encounter with herons began in 1975 on Gull Island, several miles southwest of my home.  Johnny Hooper took me there and I was enthralled with the nesting bird life, including gulls, terns, pelicans and a variety of herons. Consequently I revisited the island numerous times in attempts to photograph them. I found the herons to be particularly attractive from an artistic and photographic standpoint.

Being isolated by Pamlico Sound waters, Gull Island is a haven for nesting waterbirds. On one of my early trips, I saw an elongated neck sticking above the scrubby vegetation. It was a  nesting tricolored heron minding a newly hatched chick. It did not appreciate my curiosity and on my approach, flew off. I remember the chick looking up at me helplessly. Not lingering long, I walked away, and the adult promptly returned. Ever since I’ve relished opportunities to respectfully shoot herons.

Three weeks ago, I learned of some wading birds feeding in a pond near the lighthouse. When I got there, I was happy to see several tricolored herons in the mix.

Herons are designed for what they do best, hunting shallow water.

Looking for a meal, they use their large wings to distract prey.

A long pointed bill, concealed in shade, is the tool of choice.

This heron’s feeding dance mesmerized me.

Last week as we had dinner on our back deck, a Great Egret landed in a live oak next to us. Then I made this unexpected grab shot.

So far, this has been my year of the heron, a symbol of good luck!

 

Buoys

Exploring the coast one may notice some curious artifacts. Some are natural and others are manmade. People collect shells, driftwood or beach glass. They’re all brought in by the sea. Some of my favorite collectables are the buoys from fishing nets and crab pots. They’re usually derelict from lost fishing gear and can be found at any time, but especially after storms.

I like displaying them from trees in my yard.

Some hang from an old trawl net that I found years ago.

Some of them are very special to me, like this one that belonged to Mac Midgett.

I D Midgett is my next door neighbor and has fished all his life.

Another buoy belonged to my good friend and neighbor Eric Anglin. He still brings me fish.

Recently this gem was given to me by Steve Ryan. It was Les Hooper’s buoy. Les and Steve were neighbors. Les is gone now, but his spirit remains.

I also have a buoy from Rudy Gray of Waves. He no longer fishes commercially, but is still an accomplished angler.

A few months ago I got a call from Roger Wooleyhan who fishes commercially in Delaware. His fishing buddy, Layton Moore has another fishing friend who came across this buoy in his net near Ocean City, Maryland. It’s a crab pot buoy that belonged to my friend Asa Gray also of Waves. Asa passed away about 2 years ago, and he was Rudy’s brother.

I can only imagine how this arrived so far away. It’s reminiscent of a message in a bottle. It must have flowed from Pamlico Sound into the Atlantic, up the coast and through Ocean City Inlet and on to Isle of Wight Bay. Maybe it hitched a ride snagged to a rudder. At any rate, that’s some journey!

 

Fledglings

On each of my visits to the Green Herons’ nest, I noticed more energy and mobility in all 4 chicks. At about 12 days old they were flexing their wings more and beginning to leave the confines and security of the nest. Their growing agility entering this new world continued to amaze me.

As feathers developed, they began taking on some colorful hues.

The parents’ visits were not as frequent as before, but when they arrived at the nest, the chicks were more aggressive for attention.

At around 15 days, wing stretches became routine for pre-flight training.

They meandered and explored the tree where they hatched, all they way down to the water.

At 18 days, these guys were really getting around that willow tree.

At about 23 days old their wing feathers were fully developed.

The adults perched and called from the surrounding trees. Suddenly one chick flew out to them.

Seconds later another followed, then the remaining two took off…

Off into the forest of Buxton Woods they settled in a cypress tree. All four birds fully fledged, I felt fortunate to have witnessed something so wonderful.

Weeks later, they continue to frequent the area and practice their independence.

 

 

 

 

New Life

Despite trying times, life is anew. Spring has sprung, as I’m drawn to nature. That’s where I’ve always been most comfortable. 

The greenery rejuvenates around me. Wildflowers are blooming in fields and roadsides. The air is sweet, and birds are nesting.

Earlier this month, I heard about a pair of green herons building a nest in Buxton Woods. Bird photography has long been one of my passions, so I decided to see if there was any potential making photographs.

The nest was built in a willow tree surrounded by water, growing out of a pond.

There were 4 eggs incubating for almost 3 weeks.

The adults share the nesting process, including incubation.

The eggs hatched on May 16th.

In six days, the chicks had tripled in size, and turned into voracious eaters.

Frogs were the main diet.

The parents frequently left the nest in search of food, only to return and nurture.

At 8 days old, the chicks got even more demanding.

Three days later, the chicks were substantially larger and getting more lively.

To be continued……

 

 

Quarantine

With the world in pandemic mode, things are mostly shut down here, including entry of visitors into Dare County where I live. Residents are generally shuttered in their homes and avoiding close proximity to others. Our neighborhoods look like they do in storm evacuations. Streets and beaches are nearly empty. I spend my days going for walks, reading, doing some yoga or shooting a few photographs.

Beach walks are idyllic for some alone-time. Looking north from the oceanfront in Salvo, you’d never know it was Spring pushing into the tourism of Summer.

I’ve always loved the introspectiveness of macro photography, so I’ve been paying particular attention to the little details of our natural world.

The texture of sand and shells continues to captivate me.

This young snapping turtle had just awakened from its winter hide-a-way.

It would have enjoyed dining on my new garden greens of lettuce, spinach, and kale.

The fig tree I planted 30 years ago is producing once again. I get some and so do the birds.

My property goes back to the Pamlico Sound, much of it pristine coastal wetlands. Every time I explore it, I’m amazed at the transition and variety of flora and fauna.

The appearance of fiddler crabs is a sure sign that Spring has arrived. This individual shows a defensive posture with a broken claw.

Spartina and Juncus grasses dominate the landscape, and act as a natural buffer protecting more upland property especially during storms.

Juncus is also called black needle rush. What appears to be a stem is actually the leaves rolled into a cylindrical shape ending with a very sharp tip.

The new Juncus flowers began popping out about a month ago

The shoreline marsh is adapted to be wet at times and dry at other times. The tides lately have been mostly higher than normal. So much so that new oyster spat are setting 20 feet inland.

The periwinkle is an intertidal snail that climbs up grasses to get above water.

In its larval stage this oyster spat settled on a clam shell fragment on the flooded shoreline during last year’s spawning. It measures an inch and is still growing.

Now when I’m around others in public spaces, I’ll be wearing a new fashion statement. My talented sister-in-law, Peggy, made masks for Denise and me. I have a feeling it’ll be getting a lot of use in the coming days.