Friday, September 3, 2010


Yesterday, as we drove down The Mountain, we came out of a curve leading to Cowan and passed a curious-looking, wide house with green metal roof and myriad short windows on the side facing the road. Before the house was a large pond, which has always been rather muddy and unruffled and resembles a giant mudhole. However, yesterday, we were surprised to see a huge flock of Canadian geese in the grass beside the pond, huddled together and cackling in their high-pitched voices. Since I often feel landlocked here on The Mountain, the sight of water and water birds pleased me. On the return trip from Winchester, we glimpsed the same flock, and I had hoped to see them lift off in their v-shaped migration position, but they were still aground, huddled so close together that I wondered if the 93-degree heat wouldn’t soon set their feathers afire.

I think perhaps the geese were molting and am told that they particularly like golf courses where they tolerate humans and often nest there, as well as in city parks. Canadian geese have long black necks and a white cheek patch with a brownish body, and are lovely creatures. However, they don’t nest on my lawn, and if they did, I might have a less tolerant view of a gaggle of geese talking in their high-pitched voices. I’ve encountered geese in several parks and have been hissed at on several occasions.

Since I am from Louisiana, I prefer herons, especially the Great Blue Heron which can often be seen standing at the edge of ponds and lakes, seeking fish and frogs. The Great Blue Heron is often mistaken for a sandhill crane, and among the many differences between the two is that the Great Blue Heron flies with its neck folded and not extended like a crane. I have seen the sandhill crane walking near Silver Lake in central Florida but haven’t sighted them in Louisiana.

At times, we have been bird watching around Lake Martin with our friend Anne Simon of New Iberia, where we have seen herons, egrets, even the Roseate Spoonbill with its bright pink wings and orange tail. In Louisiana, the Roseate Spoonbill was a bird much sought after for its plumes in the early 19th century, until protective legislation was passed to deter plume hunters.

Lake Martin is halfway between Breaux Bridge and St. Martinville, Louisiana, and the Nature Conservancy has a lease on the southern end of the lake, which is the site of a wading bird rookery.  Cypress trees abound in murky water that is covered with duckweed.  In late January and February, the Great Egrets return to the lake, and by April, their chicks have hatched.  In March, the Roseate Spoonbill arrives and by May, spoonbill chicks have come into the world.  June is the month for Little Blue Heron chicks.  'Come July, and all of the nesting birds have flown away.

At Lake Martin, we always sight alligators nosing around in the lagoons, and once discovered a small bear on the banks of the lake. We knew that the mother bear was probably lurking nearby and scrambled back into the car. The Little Blue Heron also feeds near the shores of Lake Martin. She’s a smaller version of the Great Blue Heron, but she does a lot of strutting as she searches for insect larvae, and on the particular trip I mentioned above, I was inspired to write a poem about her that appears in my chapbook, MORE CROWS. I have also written one about the Great Blue Heron that appears in PASSING THROUGH.


Does the weather change make her restless,
this petite heron so wary of larger colonists,
great egrets and fine plumed spoonbills?
Her maroon neck deepens in stealth
as she moves through lake thickets,
hunting endlessly, never seeking comfort,
staring into terror, an alligator’s small eyes,
hoping for minnows, the small man’s meal.
As one also diminutive in size,
I understand her tentative steps,
presumed “little,” sad and thin,
a spindly-legged creature
underestimated for ferocity,
she finds resource but delayed recognition…
is unabashed that her plumes have no value.


Great blue heron poised in torpedo grass
the lake entire before him,
slowly wades,
dipping his practiced tongue;
bored with feeding
returns to looking
at the lake entire before him,
his thought perfectly molded
to long pauses.

No comments: