The Mast-Head: On a Town Pond Perch

It would make the ultimate, if cheesy, Christmas photo for the cover of The Star

There was a traffic jam on Tuesday morning on Main Street. A lone heron had found a happy roost on a Christmas tree stuck in the middle of Town Pond, and several drivers had stopped for a look.

I knew what was up in advance because my sister had phoned while I was getting a cup of coffee and left a voice message about a great blue heron atop the tree that has blue lights and that it would make the ultimate, if cheesy, Christmas photo for the cover of The Star.

By the time I got there about a half-hour later, Main Street was at a stop. Two people had pulled over on the James Lane side as well and were on the pond’s edge taking pictures with their phones.

When I got to the office and described the scene, Jane Bimson, one of our sales representatives and a good photographer, volunteered to get a photo. Taking a real camera with a lens that stood a chance of getting a decent shot, she headed out the door.

There have been plenty of herons around these days, it seems. The other morning, early, I had to slow my truck to give one that had been standing in the middle of Napeague Meadow Road a chance to rise and slowly fly off in a southerly direction, where a second heron launched itself from a tree and winged it off to do the same.

Earlier in the fall, a couple of people and I stood around in stunned awe looking across Folkstone Creek on Three Mile Harbor at several dozen herons that had paused to rest during migration. 

Herons have an interesting way of making a living, it seems to me. They are stone-cold killers, grim reapers of the swamps, whose strategy of stillness gives them an enigmatic air. Think of it: They stand for as long as it takes, knee-deep in water or amid a grassy meadow, then in an instant sweep down and grab a fish or other creature in their beaks.

At my friends Michael and John’s country place outside of San Francisco once, I watched a great blue hunting squirrels on the lawn. To my eastern eyes, accustomed to herons hunting fish, this seemed some kind of abomination. When I pointed it out, Michael told me they do it all the time.

 It’s hard to imagine that Town Pond, where the Christmas heron has taken up residence, has much for it to eat. A short flight away, Hook Pond is loaded with minnows, perch, and carp. Why this particular bird finds Town Pond appealing instead, I can’t say. Could be it’s bored and likes all the action. The view is fine, I’ll give it that. I hope it sticks around.