Exquisite Terror from the Sky

by Eric Shalit | June 16th, 2010

This exquisite Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias who wants to eat our goldfish. It is the largest North American heron, with a head-to-tail length of 91–140 cm (36-55 in), a wingspan of 167-201 cm (66-79 in), and a weight of 2–3.6 kg (4.4-8 lbs).

On several occasions recently I’ve been hearing someone or something walking on the roof. It’s way too early for Santa. Could it be that exquisite terror from the sky, the Great Blue Heron? We have a small backyard pond, full of large delicious goldfish, the descendants of classroom goldfish. The sound of something on the roof stops and I stealthily head out into the yard, camera in hand, hoping to capture a photo of the heron at the pond. He sees me first and leaps into the air before I can take his picture. He’s incredibly tall, slender, and difficult to see, his sky gray colors an effective camouflage. Although I expected to see him, I’m nonetheless startled. The best I can do is take his photo in my neighbor’s tree where he has gone to wait.

One of our neighborhood crows (Corvus) on alert in the golden-leaved Robinia pseudoacacia 'Frisia' tree. The kiwi vine Actinidia deliciosa has climbed into the tree.

Today, a large murder of crows alerts me that something interesting is on the roof. I wait, hoping to catch the heron at the pond. Once again, the heron sees me before I see him and takes off.

In writing about the garden, it’s become clear that the garden has become an amazing habitat for wildlife, an urban oasis. We are mostly surrounded by urban yards with minimal plantings. The yard across from ours is by design a barren gravel wasteland. From the alley, our fence resembles the fence in Jurassic Park, a dividing line between the domesticated and wild places.

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