Monday, February 15, 2010

HERON IN A SQUALL

Snow has been coming down, off and on, all day. As a guess, I'd say we have 2-3 inches of new snow on top of the foot or so of packed from last week. Several areas within a half-dozen miles of here are reporting twice as much, and I'm beginning to feel slighted.
Most of the time the snow has been fine, and falling straight down rather than floating—as if it had some weight to it, or was being hurried by gravity. Watching it, I thought about an old bank barn where I once rented a stall for a horse. Whenever the pigeons and swallows in the loft overhead got disturbed, dust and hay bits came sifting down between the ancient floor boards—falling in the exactly the same straight and fast manner as much of today's snow.
Occasionally today, a squall would move through and the flakes would increase in size tenfold and pour fast and furious, swirling so thick you could barely see across the stream—though even then, there didn't seem to be much wind. I kept hoping one of those squalls would make up its mind to become more serious and linger awhile.
At the height of one mini-downpour I looked out and saw one of the herons standing in the Cottage Riffle. My days are filled with herons and their activities, as they clatter and squawk, chase one another up and down the river, or claim a particular riffle and or pool shallows and stand fishing by the hour. The middle of a February snowstorm isn't exactly the best time to be stuck with your feet in the icy water and snowflakes stinging your eyes—but a bird who wants to fill his belly with fish has little choice. I thought this particular heron was looking pretty miserable, somewhere between stoic and grim. Kind of reminded me of winter steelhead fishing days on the Pére Marquette.
Still, as we fishermen know, luck favors the persistent…and you don't get to pick the weather.

12 comments:

KGMom said...

I always think herons are the very essence of patience. I have watched them from time to time, and they just seem to have an endless capacity to stand. . .and. . .wait.

Bernie said...

This poor heron looks so cold. It sounds like your winter has arrived Grizz....stay warm and enjoy your piece of winter wonderland......:-) Hugs

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

KGMom…

They do; you're exactly right. All predators have this—and in the end, it's what counts even more than skill…patience, persistence, and a tireless capacity to keep playing the odds.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

It certainly looks cold to us—impossibly so, almost; but I don't know what, really, such a bird feels. It simply is and does, whatever it takes, to survive.

We are for sure having winter—nice and snowy, with fresh snow down and a little more on the way. I love it! I'm warm and happy.

Tramp said...

Anyone else notice the similarity between the grim determined look of the heron and the photo of Mr Griz himself? :-)
You obviously know what the heron is going through.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Tramp…

Hey…I resemble that remark!

I do, indeed, know about standing for hours in an icy winter stream, fishing (or in my case, casting) while snow poured down. More than once, I've done that standing in leaky waders. I've broken ice to get to the riffles. And yup, I've fallen in and literally had my clothes freeze board-stiff before I could get back to the truck, to the point where your shirt or pants almost had to be broken to get them off. I'm not saying it was smart, but I've been there, done that.

However, in my case I wasn't fishing to survive. I was there because I chose to be rather than had to be. And there was invariably a big thermos of hot coffee stashed somewhere nearby. But as one winter fisherman to another, I can certainly admire and respect, perhaps with a glimmer more understanding, what that ol' heron is going through.

As to my photographic visage, I've been told I looked "mean," "menacing," "spoiling for a fight," and "threateningly hostile." "Grim and determined" might be an improvement.

Gail said...

HI GRIZZ-

I love the view of Winter and the heron on your river? - it looks so frigid and dangerous even and yet the heron looks unscathed and so able to wait. I would have run for cover. ANd I can feel your words when you describe how the snow falls and changes - you are so gifted in bringing life to your posts.
We got about five inches over night and another 4 or so coming later today. Gracey-Blue' loves the snow! Skipp is off for two days sowe are going to 'catch-up' with ourselves!!! Wine, comfort food, nice fire in the wood stove.........!!
Love to you
Gail
peace........

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

To truly understand wild things (and in spite of the way I often write) you have to set aside your human sensibilities, perceptions, prejudices, fears, etc. Snow, rain, sleet, wind, cold, high water, muddy water…the heron just has to make do or do without. The equation really does come down to one simple rule: eat or die. Doesn't matter about extenuating circumstances: eat or die. Discomfort? No fish? Eat or die. Harder to accomplish in winter, of course; and the margin between surviving and succumbing is a fine line, often, I'd guess, as little as a single fish. It isn't cruel, just the way it is. We're the ones who bring all the emotions.

Stay warm. Have a great couple of days with your man and your pup. Enjoy the snow.

Grace said...

My friends down South think I'm crazy, but I love the kind of snow you're discribing. Perhaps my love of snow goes back to when I would lie in bed at 6am listening to the radio and waiting for the magic words "all schools cancelled today"!

The Weaver of Grass said...

How are those ducks faring in your snowy weather? You sound so sanguine about the snow - almost as though you wish to get snowed in. It snowed two hundred feet higher than us today - we can see the snow line on the hills opposite, but we had sunshine.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Grace…

I love snow, too—and especially love watching it snow. I've spent lots of night outside during snows, camping in everything from tents to the back of my pickup to recess caves down in the hill country. I love that feeling of snug shelter. Once, in Canada, I got snowed in at an old trapper's cabin, 10x12 feet, hewn logs, small woodstove, when it snowed something like four feet in 6-7 hours. A real northwoods blizzard. I had to stay there over a week before the ski plane could come pick me up. I loved every minute.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

Yup, I love snow. It's snowing here right at this very moment…and has been snowing lightly all day. I don't mind snow at all. In fact, snow is one the things I most look forward to all year—like autumn leaves and spring wildflowers. Summer is my least favorite season.

Ducks? I feed a couple dozen wild mallards daily. They fly to the top of the bank, eye the cottage a while, then waddle over to the corn I've scattered for the cardinals and sparrows before daylight. When they're done, I have to scatter more corn. I'm hoping at least a pair or two choose nest sites around the yard come spring.