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A long siege
Marsh Musings
Black -crowned Night Heron

I am very grateful and happy to back in our place. Knee surgery isn’t for sissies, and recovery isn’t ever fast enough. But we all get well. I am grateful to all of you that sent me notes of encouragement. Never underestimate the power of friends urging you forward.

I went through the marsh after being out of touch for 24 days. I am glad to say it is still there and being a bit shy and reluctant to share any new secrets. 

There are very few ducks, coots or grebes. Lots of Great Blue Herons and egrets are present. Cattle egrets are such characters — following the herd, riding on their backs, wandering around under their feet—these birds are the all-stars of the summer. It is hot and there are flies that bite and lots of mosquitoes. Dress and dope up appropriately if you are going to spend much time out during the day.  

One bird that sticks around and breeds here in the Bottoms is the black-crowned night heron. There are a few Yellow-crowned birds, but not many. It is a special treat to spot one of those beauties. 

The black-crowned are more plentiful and accessible. This is one of my favorite birds in our marsh. They feed mostly at night but will perch in the cat tails along the edges of the canals early and late in the day. 

They are about the size of a crow and are black/white or gray. They have a relatively large head and a stout bill. Their red/orange eyes are striking. There will be times that flocks of these birds will be in one area feeding or resting, and I always try to find them. 

They sit quietly and pretend to be invisible, so if they don’t get too nervous they give you a good chance to see a great bird. It is easy to miss seeing them along the canals when they sit a bit further back in the reeds and peek out. They stick around until October or so and then head south. They are out there right now waiting for your visit.

It is definitely dog days of summer. Things seem to be in slow motion and everyone tries to dodge the heat. Frog season is open. We do have a great frog population and they are very high on the list of culinary specialties. If wading around in water up to your waist and being very quiet to be able to sneak up on frogs in the dark is appealing — go for it. You tough high school kids probably eat better than the rest of us.

Be careful driving the roads — our reptile friends aren’t cautious enough, so it is our responsibility to protect them to the max. The water snakes are in full color and gorgeous.  

I will nose around and try to find something special for you as I drag through this rehab — but it is almost done. It was a long siege.

Doctor Dan Witt is a retired physician and nature enthusiast.