Tuesday, April 3, 2007

SPRING: when pteradactyls come back

That's Mr. Great Blue, to you

It was about this time of year, about 8 years ago that I had one of the most bizarre experiences in my life. I've had quite a few of those, but none that involved a pteradactyl. Until then.

We were driving back home from Toronto, and Kev was in the passenger seat, in a great deal of pain. He'd pulled a muscle in his leg a few days prior to that and the medicine wasn't working, so I was driving. I might add here that I was driving on unfamiliar roads, and anyone who knows me knows that I have a severely-demented phobia of driving anywhere I have never been before, and/or getting lost. So there I was driving & trying to focus on the road with Kev in extreme pain in the passenger seat. A pretty high-stress situation, to say the least.

All of a sudden, out of the Jurassic period, flies a real live pteradactyl right across the road in front of me, windshield level. I nearly spazzed. Kev saw it too and we both just went HUH!? I almost ran off the road, but I didn't, thankfully. Kev assured me it wasn't a pteradactyl but a Great Blue Heron. He said he'd seen them before as a kid, but it'd been years since he saw one in flight like that. I didn't believe him (he's always making stuff up to trick me!).

So when we got home I did what any self-respecting, obedient wife would do. I pulled up my favorite search engine (did google even exist 8 years ago?) to prove Kev wrong. Unfortunately, I was instead proved wrong myself and had to admit defeat. Bah-humbug! I didn't care, this was the COOLEST bird I had ever seen in my life, and I was instantly fascinated with it.

I began to search for any info I could get on this bird: nesting habits, feeding habits, sounds, migration patterns, anything I could come up with. I learned a lot, but the real education would be in going out to the local areas EVERY day Kev had off, with my camera, and observing this bird in its natural state. We drove all over southern Ontario (literally) to find heron colonies, and secluded areas where we could watch them. Once, we'd found a really cool spot at a marshy pond in the middle of the woods. You had to trek a bit to get there but it was so worth it, because it was so far away from civilization that if you snuck in and were very quiet and very still, you were right in the middle of them!

So, brilliant idea person that I am, I decided we needed to get up one day at 4 am and head out there (it was quite a drive, then the trek to the pond also) to get some great shots of the birds when the sun was rising over the misty marsh. So that's exactly what we did. Packed some food, grabbed a Tim Hortons (no, you cannot go birding without coffee) and got out there while it was still dark. The sun just began to come up as we made our way to the marshy pond, and we settled into the rocks & bushes with our coffees to just watch & enjoy. We were able to sit there for quite a while, before the most obvious thing happened. I don't know why it never crossed our minds before, but it should have. Kev and I instantly became breakfast for about 87 flazillion hungry mosquitos. You think I embellish this story? Ha! We were both literally dripping with blood by the time we grabbed our gear and got away from the water. So much for the peaceful observation of herons! I'm so glad no one was there when we got out of the woods and headed toward the van, we probably would have scared them silly, since we looked like muddy, bloody, night of the living dead people.

In any event, this is what began our love for birds - even the nasty Canadian skeeters couldn't stop that! And spring is when you might find me somewhere near water, hiding in bushes, sometimes laying flat on my belly with my camera, watching and admiring these extremely cool birds. (I did not take the picture in this post, most of my heron & other great bird shots were lost in the HD crash last year). Yes, I do now wear skeeter-be-gone. I've learned my lesson.

The funny thing is, I grew up and lived in the Puget Sound in Washington State until I was 33 years old. What I did not know until I went back a few years ago for a vacation, was that Great Blues are native to Puget Sound! I lived there that whole time, and never once saw a heron. How weird is that?!

In any event, I'm glad it's spring. I miss birding all winter long, so I'm very much looking forward to warmer weather, when the pteradactyls return for my enjoyment.