A blog focused on nature, science, environmental topics, and happenings at the Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC).

A Naif in the Forest by Darrell Berger

Wing Tips to Hiking Boots: Musings of a New, Full-Time Poconos Resident 

This Great Blue Heron is wading in the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where we spent a few weeks being slighter warmer than northeastern Pennsylvania. 

The Blue Heron’s natural habitat here includes nearly any body of water and the sign on about any kind of business. One finds the Blue Heron Golf Course, Christmas Tree Farm, Catering, Coffee House, Landscaper, Medical Associates, Swimming Pools and Restaurant. It is the local identifying animal, as Black Bear is to our part of the forest. 

It is the largest North American heron and can be found from Alaska to South America. The males and females look very similar, though the male is larger. They change mates every year, but will often return to the same nest. Nests usually contain three to five eggs and both males and females will feed their young. Unlike the Black Bear, which is so black they get mistaken for shadows, the Great Blue Heron is not really blue, being more precisely slate with various highlights. It is Blue only in comparison to the Great White Heron, which is found in more southern climes. 

It stands motionless for long periods of time and has little fear of humans, which makes taking beautiful Great Blue Heron photographs relatively easy. This one posed for a number of us, like an Oscar winner on the red carpet. 

They have little to fear except humans and the occasional bald eagle. They move slowly and ponderously through the marsh, often standing on one leg, yet attack with deadly speed, aided by their supple neck and a razor-sharp beak. Their eyes enable hunting both day and night. Their diet includes almost any animal it can swallow. They will live in almost any wetland, with little regard for the health of the ecosystem.  

Therefore, spotting a muskrat is a better sign of a healthy wetland than these beautiful birds. A Blue Heron is in fact a terrifying killer who will live in unhealthy places. Yet one is unlikely to see a logo for Muskrat Swimming Pools or Swamp Rabbit Medical Associates.

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