The great blue heron is the largest heron in North America and is very adaptable, thriving from subtropical mangrove swamps to desert rivers to the coast of southern Alaska.
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During my first couple of trips to Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, I was so smitten with all of the birds that I forgot to appreciate the beauty of the landscape. It wasn’t until my trip last fall that I finally began to really take notice. I will be more attentive next time.
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Here in the northern reaches of New Jersey it snowed on Tuesday, and today it was 60 degrees. So while winter and spring battle it out, I sit and wait and dream of returning to the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.
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In those first days and months, I was content to just hang out along the edge of the swamp. It always had something to amuse me, but it was also beginning to teach me. I was learning the different kinds of frogs, the sounds they make and some of their habits.
For example I could focus on a green frog and wait endlessly, hoping it would do something—anything—but it would just sit there. As soon as I put the camera down it would ribbit and skip across the water to chase another frog. Yup, could count on that almost every single time. A ribbit was always followed by a leap, but it was a certain tone of ribbit, not its usual twangy, banjo sounding ribbit. I’m sure ribbit isn’t the proper term, but I’m also sure it doesn’t really matter. Anyway, it would happen so quickly, there was, usually, no time to get a shot. I did get sorta lucky once.
I was also learning how to identify certain birds and their songs and calls, like the yellow Warbler, the red-bellied woodpecker, the northern flicker, and the yellow-bellied sapsucker, which is the most awesomely named bird that I know of. Yes, I know that’s a dangling preposition. You’ll find a lot of them in my writing, because I just like them. My apologies to Ms. Jane Schroyer, who I’m sure would be horrified.
I also learned just how scary Canada geese can be, like the time a pair decided to build their nest on a muskrat’s lodge. One day, while the geese were hanging out in the water, the muskrat came out and sat on the lodge to munch on some grass. Well, the geese were having none of that.
Unfortunately, before this happened I had gotten bored, because nothing was really going on. I started taking artsy photos and had stopped down my shutter speed so I could stop down my aperture to get more depth of field. As I saw what was about to happen with the poor muskrat, I was so excited that I forgot to change my shutter speed back, so the photos aren’t as awesome as they could have been.
After it was all over and I realized what I had done, I’m pretty sure I said, “Darn, it.”—or something similar, maybe something with an “f”. Not sure.