When the weather and workload allow it, Cara and I walk around the pond on our lunch break. We began this habit early this March, after what felt like a long cold imprisonment inside. We kept a close eye on the bare branches and iced-over pond, looking for the first stirrings of thaw and then spring.
One day in April we saw a narrow white question mark across the water—the distinctive silhouette of a heron. Last year I had seen both white herons and a great blue heron, but this year, it seemed the pond played host only to white ones. There were three of these solitary hunters standing out against the far dark shore. The turtles came out to sun themselves on the log. We could see up to ten turtles of all sizes, and ages, lined on the log in the far corner of the pond. Red-wing blackbirds flew overhead. We once saw an oriole.
Cara reported our daily heron and turtle count to one of our coworkers, who is native to Essex. “There are no herons around here, they must be egrets!” she told us. Cara grew up in southern New Hampshire and I grew up in Virginia. We hurriedly corrected ourselves, sure that we just weren’t local enough to know. A few weeks later I got into a conversation with a man on my street who is a birder. He said that he sees herons all over the place. Although he is originally from Maine, he has lived in Beverly for forty years. Who are we to believe? (more…)