This is a bird that has always struck awe in me, drawn my breath away on sight. Until recently I thought they were exclusively coastal with only a few mavericks straying inland to remind those fortunate enough to happen upon one of the majestic diversity and grace in nature. Watching them take flight transports me to an ageless place where only seeing beauty matters. There is nothing awkward about them. They walk gracefully on stilt-like legs, they stand eternally in still waters until just the precise moment when they are assured of capturing prey. They are a perfect creature, to me.

Feeling somewhat an interloper, I have watched web cams of a heron’s nest where they, unsuspecting or uncaring of anyone’s watching, lay two to three eggs, diligently incubate them, then hatch and rear their young painstakingly until they too, gangly legs and all, take their first unerring flight. 

One particular heron I was almost guaranteed to catch sight of by a pond my dog Lily and I frequently walk by. There, suddenly by a copse of cypress knees, would the bird stand, single leg raised, still as a statue, waiting for an unsuspecting fish or some other tasty morsel to forget it is there. In a fluid, single motion its head would disappear beneath the surface of the shallows and emerge a split-second later with a slender fish.

Not long ago we walked by this same pond and I did not see the heron. Not surprising, I thought, there are many ponds in the area being so close to Lake Norman, or even the lake itself or the Maguire Nuclear Station where the dam is. Lots of shallow grasses there, hiding something delicious.

And then a week or so ago I read a brief letter to no one in particular I suppose, in one of those weekly shopper newspapers they throw in people’s driveways. The writer was leaving a parking lot and stopped to watch a group of maybe 4 or 5 herons there when a white pickup truck crashed right through them. Not one of them survived.

The writer wanted to know, why?

So do I.