Sligo Creek Park, April 10, 2015

One thing I was hoping to see this morning were the Yellow-crowned Night Herons, who have just returned to the park. I headed upstream to the place where we’d been seeing them last year. It was a little drizzly and cold, with only a handful of people on the trail, and I was walking fast, bopping along to this great song that was in my head (Sure as Spring by La Luz). Then I remembered that I need to work on not thrashing around so loudly all the time, crushing everything in my path. So I walked through the muddy grass to streamside with quiet, stealthy precision, and looked up… and looked around… and ok, then I remembered that they’re being seen in a different place this year. Instead of heading back for the herons I continued upstream, focusing on tree buds; I want to keep an eye on the trees that I learned to identify this winter as they shape-shift themselves into spring. It’s pretty impressive how quickly the change happens.

Box elder (Acer negundo)
Box elder (Acer negundo)

Look at the box elders – what are these things their buds have elongated into, these long dangling festoons of samaras! It took me a minute to even realize that that’s what I was looking at – wait, that thing with all the wiggy candelabras is a box elder?

Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)

And then the spicebush – how is it that I’ve never noticed them at this time of year, buds exploding everywhere in sharp yellow-green? Is it just because I didn’t know their name, that they were just “bushes”? So maybe I saw some nice green explosions on some “bush” but without that hook of a name (spicebush! Lindera benzoin!) the observation didn’t stick?  There’s something about learning their names that makes me feel like I know them well enough to be curious about them.  (Acer negundo! I’m loving your new hair!)

Yellow-crowned Night Herons (Nyctanassa violacea)
Yellow-crowned Night Herons (Nyctanassa violacea)

At some point I realized that I’d walked a couple of miles and should really turn around. And of course that’s when I remembered where those night herons are now: about two blocks from the point where I’d started. Equally ironically no stealth was necessary – they’re next to a tennis court at the corner of a deafeningly busy intersection. They sat close together up on the nest, seemingly oblivious to the screeching chaos below. Finally, here’s that great song that was stuck in my head.  They played an equally great show here in DC last month.  My only regret is that by the time they came on stage, I was stupefied with fatigue… I am way too old for shows where the headliner comes on at midnight.  But anyway, dance time:

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