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Little Green Herons and Bucks in Velvet

Friday, August 1, 2014

Every day I take a few hours to be good to my spirit. Sometimes I take a whole day. July 25 was just such a day. It was to be beautiful. And my friend David, who with his wife Mary Jane turned me onto North Bend State Park in Harrisville, WV, emailed me around 11 pm on the 24th to ask if I wanted to meet them there in the morning. Oh, there's nothing I'd rather do than float around with you two sharp-eyed, attuned naturalists and dear friends!

But my car was in the shop for a mysterious Subaru gas tank weirdness! I fussed about that for awhile, then asked to borrow Bill's van. So the next morning he stuffed my canoe into the van and I rode into town with him, dropped him at Bird Watcher's Digest, and headed to the lake.

The red-headed woodpeckers were calling, churring and kwirking, as I got out of the car at the boat launch. Two, teed up on a snag where I parked. Three more whirling around on the lake. A couple of newly fledged youngun's begging.  It was cool and sunny with puffy white summer clouds. I was so glad to be there.

Little did I know that it was to be Green Heron Day at North Bend State Park. A veritable Festival of Green Herons. Now, I've been there lots of times, and the most I've ever gotten is a few rotten looks at a supershy green heron flying away. Today would be a whole 'nother thing. 

I couldn't tell until I uploaded this photo that this is a newly fledged youngun. See the white down on its crown, and the pale feather edgings on its wing coverts? 

This is another young bird, stepping carefully along a submerged log. It has just a trace of down on the crown, but mostly the heavily streaked sideneck, the pale edgings on wing coverts, and the greenish (not bright orange-yellow) legs give it away.  There are many such floating logs at North Bend. They're the remains of the standing timber that houses the red-headed woodpeckers. It's falling, falling...and the place is changing right before my eyes.

Green herons are shape-shifters, going from football

to croquet mallet in the wink of a hard yellow eye.

Not only that, they have some fabulous James Brown hair when they're excited.

This is the bird my Iowa-born father called a shitepoke. If you don't know the derivation of that word, you may benefit by my having wondered about it for 50 years, and finally having figured it out. Read "How Do You Spell Shitepoke?" 

Well, that was a bit of hyperbole. I probably started wondering about it when I was six. But still. I was delighted to see these young green herons stepping carefully through the shallows of North Bend. It seemed to me a change for the better. This little heron isn't doing so well throughout its range, and it was a balm to see them enjoying some breeding success at my happy place. More green herons in a subsequent post!

I always enjoy stalking deer from the water, and today was Bucks in Velvet day. Everybody got a free bobblehead buck in velvet.

They are curious about a person in a small silent watercraft, but they aren't alarmed, and we spend a great deal of time just looking at each other.

For someone who's going to get so bold and raunchy when the rut comes around in about two months, it amuses me to see him acting like a shy first-grader with his tender just-forking antlers.

We play hide-and-seek, me paddling hard a few times, then drifting silently closer; he playing fan dancer in the trunks and leaves.

If canoeing North Bend with me sounds like something you'd like to do, there are still some spaces left in the Bird Watcher's Digest Reader Rendezvous coming up August 22-24, 2014.

Check it out here: Birding Valhalla With Julie Zickefoose


Another day, another lesson learned. My husband calls herons "shypokes". Can't wait to share your 2008 post with him!

Green imps! Thanks for sharing your float!

Didn't grow up in a family of birders, but shitepoke in our house was used to call someone a little imp. I've been called a shitepoke more than once in my life!

Beautiful. Just need to have the audio added! (Had just listened to a great Science Friday story on memory and music:, so audio was on my mind.) Can that be done on some subsequent float?
From the beginning to the end of your post/float I was right there with you. Thanks for the vicarious nature hit! And serenity. Love the deer and your take on him in two months. LOL! And where is Chet? His FB post made it sound as if he went with.

This was incredible. Something for everyone. I also read the blog you wrote in 2008 called, How Do You Spell Shitpoke? The 12th comment, (written by you), hilarious. Your grandpa sounds like he was cantankerous. Lots of family stories I'm sure.

Posted by Lucy from MN August 1, 2014 at 11:10 PM
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