I drive in a lazy fashion to Towl Park today. It is another jewel of a day, but has a cold snap to it that annoys me just a bit. I park and lug my chair to the pond and settle in.
My eye catches movement and I peer at what appears to be a large white trash bag on the opposite side of the pond. And then, slowly, it dawns on me that this isn't a trash bag but a huge white bird with a long, thin neck. It stares at me and I stare back.
I decide that I want a photo of it, so I carefully withdraw my phone from my bag and slowly stand up, preparing for a closer shot.
The second that I am upright, the bird swoops into the air and flies away down to the far side of the pond beyond the bridge. Its wing span must be at least four feet. I sigh. Okay. No photos. I sit back down. After I have settled in for about five minutes, the bird comes back.
All right, I think. Let's strike a deal. I'll sit here very quietly and you do your thing and just let me watch. The bird seems to consider this and then looks at me and I SWEAR it nods.
It struts around the edges of the pond in a stork like manner. It is carefully watching something in the water. Inch by inch, it gets closer and closer to the water's edge. I don't take my eyes off of it. I feel it in my bones. Something is going to happen.
I send out a mental prayer to the universe. Please don't let a dog walker or fisherman or woman show up. This is an extremely touchy bird and I sense that any sudden movement from me or anyone else will set it off flying again. I'm barely breathing as I watch.
Another inch. And then another. Another. Again. One more. Now, its feet are in the water, perched on the very edge. It ventures another few inches into the water and then freezes. I start mentally counting. One. Two. Three. Four....when I am up to 115, the bird dips its head as quick as a flash and comes up with a small frog in its mouth. My heart beats fast as I watch.
I nearly jump out of my skin when I hear a woman softly whisper next to me. "That there is a white heron," she says, kneeling down. She is dressed in a nylon blue and white striped jogging outfit. Her dark hair is cut in a no-nonsense bowl cut. Her voice is flat, without any melodious quality at all. She goes on. "Some would call it an egret, but they'd be wrong. You be seeing a male, non-mating white heron. Quiet. They spook easy. Sit tight."
I nod and carefully take my phone out again and get a long distance photo. It'll have to do and doesn't do it a bit of justice.
It is the most beautiful snowy white bird that I have ever seen. The woman and I don't speak again. A few minutes later, a car pulls up with two teenaged girls and two small, yappy dogs.
The woman beside me scowls. "Well, that's it then," she says, stands up and walks back to her car. Minutes later, the dogs joyfully spot the heron and, barking, race towards it. The heron makes no sound, but swoops back up into the air, its legs hanging down and flies away.
My throat is choked and I feel tears smarting in my eyes. Thank you, I think. That was so lovely.