Sunday, June 21, 2009

Big Bird Up Close

My father was an avid naturalist. He loved the outdoors and fancied himself a something of an expert on North American wildlife. He loved birds of all kinds, song birds especially, since they were the most abundant in his neighborhood. His got excited when he would encounter a species not frequently seen around here.

A bird he always enjoyed watching but seldom saw was the Blue Heron, common all across North America and mostly found near large bodies of water. It is a large bird that wades the shoreline looking for lunch.

I got an up close look at one the other evening and Dad would be glad to know that I recognized it immediately. He would not be pleased with the manner and method of my up close observation, however.

Teresa and I were returning from a short ride to Reynoldsburg heading east toward home. The sun was low in the western sky and everything had that reddish golden glow to it. The day had been hot but the cool of the approaching night felt really nice. Our shadow stretched out in front of us 50 feet or so as we cruised along at about 55mph.

As we ascended an incline leading up to the arched bridge crossing the railroad tracks near Summit Station, I saw the gray/brown blur of the heron in flight from about 200 yards away and pointed it out to Teresa. What an impressive bird!

(From Wikipedia, (C) John Harrison)

It had just taken off from a tree top and looked as though it might go under the bridge. But it started flapping its wings to gain altitude and I quickly realized that he was taking the high road, so to speak, over the bridge.

But he wasn't traveling very fast and his altitude wasn't increasing as much as I would have thought it should. As we continued onto the bridge, he cleared the guardrail of the bridge with just inches to spare and continued his lazy flight.

At a distance of about 25 yards I could see his wing span was about 3 feet across. With wings that wide you would think that a heron could reach great heights with no effort at all, and they may. But this one was in no hurry evidently.

It was apparent to me that we were about to get very personal with this creature. I applied some major front brake pressure and our speed dropped from 55 to 40mph in seconds. The heron passed at eye level just a few feet in front of us.

Whoa! That was close and what a mess it would have been. I looked in the mirror for the bird but only saw the grill of an F-150 quickly approaching. I down shifted, rolled on the throttle and scooted out of his way.

To the bird's credit, he may not have seen us since we were approaching out of the setting sun. And to the F-150's credit, how often does somebody nearly stop in the middle of a bridge to let Big Bird pass?

The rest of the journey was uneventful and we enjoyed the deepening shadows and the red-orange glow cast over the country side. I love this time of day. Except for the occasional critter.

Ride Safe!


irondad said...

Maybe the "getting a close look" thing was running both ways. Or perhaps just "poor altitude judgement". Good job staying aware and avoiding becoming a hood ornament!

Doug C said...

Ha! As pretty as the bird and I may be, neither one of us would look good as a hood ornament!

RazorsEdge2112 said...

Wow, Doug. That could have definitely been quite messy. Really glad you were on the ball.

Great post; makes me miss the midwest. Enjoy.