Juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron

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Not long ago I saw a strange creature. I was still in a dream-like state that early morning when I opened the door to let my dog outside. The sun was just beginning to rise and my vision was still blurred from a heavy sleep. Yet, as I looked out toward my father’s damselfly pond (a recent project) I noticed a rather large, stocky bird (around two feet in height) with a humped back and pure red eyes standing along the bank. I stared for a moment, thinking it was my imagination; maybe a trick of the eyes. Yet, it stayed there and I realized something living was before me. It wasn’t like anything I had ever seen. I took a step forward and it didn’t move.

My father appeared at the door and whispered “What is that?”

“I don’t know….” I took another step forward.

Pops ran in for his binoculars.

As I stepped closer, the bird was not sure what to think of my presence. It was clearly still very young. It was difficult to get past it’s bright red eyes that seemed to glow in the early morning twilight. For a moment I felt I was in some fantasy novel. Though, based on the look of this creature (thick, hunched, with red eyes) I am not sure that he would be one of the good guys.

The demeanor of the poor thing changed my perception completely, however, as he became less comfortable with me. He cocked his head, stared for a while, hopped from side to side, and finally decided he was too nervous to stay. I felt sorry for him then.

Just as he began to fly my father said “Where is it??”

We watched him fly from tree to tree until he finally made it beyond our vision.

Pops said it was a heron of some sort. I believed him because I had seen herons along the pond before. Yet, never one quite like that. Over coffee we looked up our options in the bird book and came to realize that our visitor was a Juvenile Black-Crowned Night Heron. They are one of the most common herons in the United States, apparently. To me, my encounter with the poor juvenile was anything but common. I hope he comes to visit again.

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