Heron’s Patience

(Burrowing Owl Update Below)

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) Jan. 20 2023

I love it when another park visitor alerts me to a bird or to some other interesting item of nature in the park. This morning, a park visitor on the north side told me that a heron, “a really big one!,” was stalking around on the little hill in the northwest corner. And sure enough, when I got there, a Great Blue ambled in its stately fashion in the new grass on the south side of the hilltop where the Peace Symbol lies. I set up my tripod at what I thought was a calm distance and began to film. Whether because of me or for reasons of its own, the bird went into Marcel Marceau mode and became as frozen as a statue. My patience soon unraveled. I’d already used the desperate expedient of focusing on its eye and tracking its blinks, see “Blue’s Blink,” Jan 5 2023. This time, motion offscreen caught my eye, and I briefly tracked the progress of the Larkspur Ferry across the Golden Gate. When I returned focus to the bird, all it did was to scrunch up its neck into a semi-pretzel configuration, in which it remained as immobile as before. The heron’s patience far exceeded my own. I was out of my home. It was in its home. I had people to meet and things to do. It had all the company it wanted and its lunch and dinner pitter-pattered underfoot and would surface by and by. Few birds have the immense patience of the herons and egrets, particularly the big ones. Their presence in the park reminds me to savor each moment of my tick-tock life and to honor and respect the silence of these feathered samples of eternity.

Burrowing Owl Update

At 8 this sunny Saturday morning, Burrowing Owl observer Mary Law spotted the bird in Perch A, out of sight of the perimeter trail. Family obligations kept me away until about 1 pm, by which time the owl had moved to Perch B, and quite a few of the park visitors passing the spot got to see the bird directly, without aid of optical devices. They got to see its head and some of its upper half, at least, as the bird chose a low perch and rarely stretched itself high. Even at the top of my high tripod I could not image the whole bird, including feet.

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) Jan 21 2023

Viewing the video afterward, I was reminded that Burrowing Owls like to take a kind-of-nap during the midday hours. I’d been coming in the mornings, when the bird is usually wide awake, apart from the occasional morning when it looks like it had a late night and is a bit groggy still. But reviewing owl films from past years brought it back to me: they kind of nod out around noon. I say “kind of,” because their eyes don’t shut completely for very long, and their ears are always on the alert. Burrowing Owls may have the capacity of many other animals to sleep with half their brains while the other half remains awake. (I wish I could do that.)

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