The Lesser of Evils

Drifting slowly towards the mouth of the creek, I saw a heron feather, a grey-blue blur bobbing against the green waters along the north shore.

Wedging the nose of the kayak into the mud under the old oaks, I scooped up the feather with my paddle blade. I had just bent forward to secure it under the deck bungee when a large shadow passed overhead.

A burst of feathers exploded onto the shore a couple of yards to my east. A great blue heron, so close. He obviously hadn’t seen the kayak under the tree canopy on his landing approach.

As I fumbled to get the camera out of the dry sack, another larger shadow cruised over my head, and a second heron swooped in about eight feet from the first.

Two herons, so close. So close!

The larger, alpha heron immediately puffed himself up to full size, feathers fiercely framing his neck and head. He bolted up the shoreline, running aggressively after the first, while I watched, momentarily unseen.

And then they both saw me.  When they skidded to a stop, the smaller heron was a mere three feet away from me, the alpha heron about six feet farther beyond.

The smaller heron looked to his left at the alpha, then swivelled that graceful neck back towards me, glancing about furtively. His cap feathers were erect, extending straight up – a blue and white shock of feathers pointing skyward.

He clambered down from the fallen birch and eased closer to me.

The alpha glared at us both, and lept up on the fallen birch trunk, fast on the heels of the small heron.

The small heron glanced again at the alpha, then eyed me, cautiously, apprehensively. 

Great blue heron weighing avenues of escape from alpha heron.

Great blue heron weighing avenues of escape from alpha heron.

The alpha glared at us from his perch on the fallen birch.

The small heron turned back and forth, from alpha heron to human, weighing, weighing the greater of the dangers, the lesser of the evils: alpha heron vs woman.

And then he made his move.

With one last glance over his shoulder at the alpha, and one last look straight into my eyes, imploring me to be the safe choice, the small heron made his move. He lowered his head, fully parallel to the ground and slowly eased to the front of my kayak, mere inches from my bow.

Slowly, slowly forward, inch by inch.

And then in a sudden blur, he bolted across the shoreline in front of me to safety.

Once two yards beyond the kayak, the small heron stopped and looked back at me. Safe.

The alpha heron glowered on from his perch on the fallen birch.

And me? That day, I was the lesser of evils.


September 2, 2007

© 2013 Babsje. (

Posted on June 1, 2013, in Adult Heron, ardea herodias, Bird photography, Birds, Great Blue Heron, Kayaking, Nature, Patience, Photography, Wildlife Photography and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

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