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Great Blue Heron

Ardea herodias


Photo Credit: Amanda Sparkman

While you might not expect Westmont to be prime habitat for herons, they are here!  You are most likely to spot them hunting gophers in faculty housing, or flying high over campus.


Looking at Us

 (Ardea herodias)


There is a great blue heron, we said.

In the backyard.  Just standing there.

Looking at us.  And it was, in its tallness,

standing there.  Looking at us. 

The nearest water a goldfish pond,

almost half a mile away.  But here

it was, on an August morning. 

Patient, wings folded, its implacable eye

atop its impossible neck.  We found

the binoculars, crept out onto the porch.

We approached—too far—and the heron

loosed its broad gray wings and climbed

the air and was gone, over a sycamore tree.

There was a great blue heron, we said.

And we looked at each other as if we were,

each one of us, some kind of wonder.


—published in Sehnsucht


Great Blue Heron 

Blue-gray against the green. 

not intending to be seen, 

over water, heron bends low, 

back like shale, belly like snow. 

I pause to stare, witness the hunt; 

it stares back with some affront.

It eyes me with indignant glare, 

hard yellow orbs shocked I dare 

interrupt, a look that could smite, 

now it rises to its full height. 

Navy crest, a dark crown bristles 

as wind through blue-gray feathers whistles. 

Regal wings spread wide, 

neck stretched up with pride. 

Of this pond, invisible king; 

the end of its spell I bring. 

A furious croak from its golden beak

gives me a start, a clear critique

of my insolent need to interfere–

a threat to depose, my presence here. 

I take one step, wanting to save 

this moment, but my failure to behave 

sends the king to lavender sky, 

the spell now broken, the memory mine. 

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