Sundown in Portland Oregon was at 4:32 pm. At 4:40 pm, I walked past my kitchen window and startled a Great Blue Heron who was eating goldfish out of my backyard pond. Then we both pretended not to see each other. I began watching from a small bathroom window, and the heron continued fishing.
It was too dark to take pictures so I didn’t fetch my camera at first. And sure enough, the Heron decided to act goofy, and belly-flopped into the pond like a pelican, grabbing a fish.
I did get a picture of the heron standing in the water, which I hadn’t seen it do, for years. Usually it fished from the pavers that line the pond edge.
It moved around in the water for awhile, scaring the living daylights out of the fish, no doubt. At 5:07, it gave up and strolled over to another pond of mine.
Twilight was gone. I was 15 feet from the heron, peering through the opening of the minutely raised blinds. It was so dark I could barely see its white cap feathers, but the heron was still plugging away at the goldfish in the second pond.
Finally it looked up abruptly, as if its concentration had broken. It turned and looked at me, Croaked, shit, and flew away, the massive sweep of its wings seemed to darken the night sky. It was now 5:30 pm, an hour after sunset.
What uncanny eyesight the heron has. It must miss nothing. An hour after sunset, and it is catching small black fish in tannin-stained waters, under a waning crescent moon.
I had seen it at my ponds just before dawn, but this was my first backyard heron sighting at dusk. How many sightings had I missed, when the heron snuck into my backyard at dusk?
The next day a heron flew over my backyard, towards the nearby Lake. I walked to the Lake, a mile away, and yes, there it was. I took several hundred pictures, most of dubious quality.
It was at the Lake this afternoon, too, in a different spot. I wonder if the lake’s fish are too deep in the cold water for the heron to easily catch.
I also see a human fishing in the Lake; they had caught a pumpkinseed sunfish. Those sunfish have extremely spiked fins that can cut your hands. Are those tough for a heron to eat, compared to the obese goldfish in my pond?
Is the Lake the heron’s version of McDonalds, while my back yard pond is the bistro off the beaten path, the heron’s version of Chez Panisse?
I wonder if the bellyflopping is one heron’s unique fishing method. Most herons spear or grab fish from the shoreline, rather than bellyflop like a pelican.
I still don’t know if my backyard heron is the same heron I see at the nearby lake. It’s like never seeing Clark Kent and Superman together.
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