Saturday, April 6, 2013

Green Heron / Tricolored Heron

        In front of me a Green Heron was inching his way out of the reeds in big, slow steps.  Behind me was a Tricolored Heron doing the same.  Both had spotted something 20-feet away in the water.  To get there
without spooking it was their challenge.

I was in Huntington Beach State Park in South Carolina, but more precisely on a six-foot wide, 100-foot long, 10-foot high well-made and sturdy boardwalk with handrails, guardrails and a gazebo at the end. The boardwalk, extended over what one might unkindly call a swamp, but it was home to countless creatures including these two herons and even more worrisome… alligators.  I was glad to be on the boards.

The Green Heron’s gaze was fixed on something below the surface.  As he neared his target his pace slowed and he went into a crouch.  I’m sure he was aware something could be watching him wading in the water, too.

I’m guessing here, but the Green Heron looked fairly safe from an alligator attack in the 6-8 inches of water where he stood. 

An alligator would have to be fairly small to conceal itself at those depths, but I’m no expert on alligators.                                               

The Tricolored Heron, too, was approaching something delicious in the water.  Taller and more slender with a longer neck and bill he shares some of the Green Heron’s beautiful wine-colored plumage in more muted shades.

The Tricolored Heron’s S-shaped neck, crouched stance and fixed stare suggested to me that, he, too, was in striking range of something. With his longer legs he could be in 10-20 inches of water.  That would seem to me (a guy from Wisconsin) to be at alligator-hiding depths, raising the stakes a notch in this heron’s hunt. 

The hunt didn’t last long though.  Someway, somehow, he either lost sight, lost interest or just plain lost the battle, because he quickly returned to the reeds in big steps, empty-billed and empty-bellied, but alive to hunt another day.

Meanwhile the Green Heron was luckier.  He stalked, stabbed and caught a little fish for his efforts.  Not a huge meal, but the rather risk-free effort in shallower water kept him alive and safe today.

I too made it back to shore safely, without so much as a wood sliver.


Huntington Beach State Park, boardwalk locator