Though deep and robust, the vocal calls of the Great Blue Heron hardly ring out as a sultry tune across the frosted blades of grass rimming the glistening frozen ponds the heron hunts. While the slow, majestic form of this large avian glides through only during the warm, summer breeding months in other provinces, BC’s west coast winter wonderland remains decked out with their statuesque forms.
Herons often conserve heat by folding up into what looks like an alien cocoon attached to a single spindly branch. The natural biology of bird feathers help to protect them from the chilling effects of the many microscope ice crystals swirling about to create our frozen season. Oils create a waterproofing barrier that aid in preventing the build up of moisture, while tucking up one lanky leg at a time reduces heat loss by half. You may witness this behaviour in open fields or in a more peculiar place, the tops of trees.
Though usually seen as a “solitudinarian,” large groups often come together forming a Rookery for nesting and rearing of offspring. These colonies can range from a few breeding pairs to a hundred. Both sexes will swap parenting duties and the Rook will often collaborate as a unit when it comes to preparing the young for fledging and life beyond the siege. One of the most amazing moments I witnessed, was flying lessons.
All the adults or mature fowl formed a massive circle in the sky above the nesting site with all the young floundering about in the centre. Now, Great Blue Herons have a wingspan of about 5-6.6 feet, so just imagine the currents they could generate! Moving completely in sync, in one direction, they seemed to call out instructions to which the younger birds would then react. I watched as they would bob up or down or cause the young to spiral or knock them off course.
The heartwarming beauty of this commotion and spectacle is an impactful memory I often replay when I am struggling on my own path in life and feeling disconnected or unsupported, or when I hear or read about fractures or divisions creating strife within a community, business or family. I remember watching how one bird may react differently to the winds generated than another, but the outcome was the same. They all learned to navigate the types of turbulence and gained confidence to face the challenges nature will undoubtedly provide them.
Birds really are amazingly resilient and plucky creatures and no matter the conditions or struggles they are facing, they seem to always find a way to keep on singing!
I wish everyone the most joyous of Holidays seasons and even though we may not all fly or react the same to the currents and updrafts of life our goal is still the same, and a kind word of encouragement and love is a gift that can be unwrapped and appreciated for a life time.
Stay Curious Kamloops!