In small decisions, seemingly
inconsequential moments, lie the
seeds of momentous events.
I'm in a rookery near Houghton Lake. Out in the wetlands to the west of
me bare trees rise out of the water. Near the tops of these trees are
enormous nests. And on the nests stand very large birds, three to four
feet tall, Great Blue Herons.
There is such tremendous variety in birds - vastly different sizes,
shapes, colors, behaviors and habitats. Many smaller birds migrate
together, moving as one in huge flocks. They seek safety in numbers.
The odds of any single bird being caught unaware and falling prey to a
predator are greatly diminished when there are hundreds of wary eyes on
the lookout in a flock. But once these birds arrive in spring they
disperse and take on a new strategy of being inconspicuous and hiding
Great Blue Herons are totally different. Instead of migrating in huge
flocks they fly alone or in very small groups. Instead of separating in
spring and hiding their nests they come together and nest in a colony,
In the rookery in front of me there are at least two dozen
nests. As the sun sets I move along the water edge, trying to line up
the birds with the best color in the sky. As I watch the birds I notice
a behavior that is repeated across the nests in the last half hour of
the day's light.
The long legged birds fly up from the nearby water and woods to the
nests. They fly behind the rookery, lock up their wings and bank into
the wind. They either land on the nest or on a branch above and hop
down. And then they join their mate already on the nest. The birds go
through something that seems part dance, part ritual. Each bird stands
and faces it's mate. They straighten their necks, pointing their beaks
into the sky. Then they gently rub their necks and beaks together. This
"necking" goes on for a minute, maybe two, and then the male jumps up
while beating his wings and floats down on to the females back, and
then they mate.
As the sun sets this scene is replayed across many of the
nests, just like it has for thousands of years. I look at the birds
silhouetted against the vibrant colors of the days end. And I think
that right then, at that very moment, the next generation is coming to
In a way I find this all to be kind of shocking. It's not the mating,
that is beautiful and reaffirming. It's the synchronicity that I find
so amazing, that all these individuals would have such intimate
Sometimes, usually late at night, I find myself wondering if out of all
the people out there anyone has the same thoughts and feelings that I
do? I've had a fair number of unique or at least unusual experiences.
Maybe at this point I'm the only one that holds my set of beliefs, my
perspective. But then again maybe its all a facade... perhaps at this
moment there are any number of people having the exact same thought of
our identity. And we have all just smiled a little at the same time,
tickled by the notion of each one of us considering our uniqueness,
Charles St. Charles III
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