During our mid-October rendition of summer, with temperatures reaching in the low 80s as recently as the start of last week, I would eat my spartan lunch on the back deck of the Lab. Truly, one of the benefits of working at the Lab must be the availability of a beautiful view for lunch-either from the deck or from the staff lounge on the second floor. Each day, at approximately 11:48, I would seat myself at the end of the deck with my lunch and, with a whiff of inevitability, wait for the show to begin.
The first day it happened we talked in hushed whispers, our forks still, eyes wide and smiling…The second day, our amazement turned to disbelief as a carbon copy of the day before repeated itself. By the fourth and fifth days, it began to bear an uncanny resemblance to the Bill Murray classic, “Groundhog Day“, and I began to ponder the significance of this beautiful, repeated occurrence.
What sort of a phenomenon could make a hungry Lab worker-bee stop eating and watch?
Enter the Heron
The culprit, in this case was not a groundhog but rather a young great blue heron, full of bluster and blissfully unaware of humanity.
Each day, this heron would stalk the pond margin, carefully stepping through the mud and weeds to search out small fish and frogs. Typically, a few bushy dogwoods hid his appearance as we arrived on the deck, as though he was waiting offstage for his theatrical entrance. Then, as our forks conducted the orchestra, he would begin his performance. The remarkable fidelity of one day’s walk to the next was remarkable, with his footsteps tracing the same path right down to stepping on a small branch each time, depressing it the bottom only to have it pop up after passing by.
So intent was he upon procuring his daily bread that he never even bothered to glance at the astonished faces of the staff gathered on the deck, and as his performances repeated themselves, our conversation became louder and our actions bolder with still no reaction from the bird. At other scheduled performances he could be found preening himself on the trails, perching on the building, or just simply looking good.
The last few days seem to have broken the spell, and with his audience dispersed by cold winds and rain, the heron appears to have taken his show to another stage. Keep your eyes open for a performance near you.