Love Is In The Air!
In springtime, love is carried on the breeze.
Watch out for flying passion or kisses whizzing by your head.
-Emma Racine deFleur
Spring is a magical time on Manklin Creek, the ocean channel behind my house. This year, Ol’ Man Winter has been reluctant to leave so the marsh grasses haven’t yet transformed from their winter browns to their glorious spring greens. However, Mother Nature’s mating season began right on time! We are now watching as the Great Blue Herons and the other shorebirds strut their stuff and perform their amazing mating rituals and dances. It is quite the drama and never fails to thrill me!
A Chorus Line of Great Blue Herons
Normally, Grandaddy, our resident great blue heron, rules the territory around this part of Manklin Creek by himself. Rarely have I seen him with a mate or any other herons. I have seen him challenge the white egrets occasionally, usually when they get too close to him. This week though is different. Yesterday morning, almost as if responding to some mysterious call, granddaddy and four other Great Blue Herons flew to the edge of the marsh grasses behind our house and formed a line. Each heron was equal distance from each other and they all stood at attention, staring in the same direction – toward the ocean. They looked like soldiers guarding a fort! In fact, that may not be too far from the truth.
According to The Cornell Lab of Orthology, male Great Blue’s arrive at the colony and settle on nest sites; from there, they court passing females. Colonies can consist of as few as a handful or as many as 500 or more individual nests, with multiple nests per tree built 100 or more feet off the ground. I haven’t seen any big nests but judging by the five herons’ behavior, I’m guessing that Manklin Creek is some sort of a highway for female herons looking for a mate!
Sometime between February and April male Great Blue Herons collect much of the nest material, gathering sticks from the ground and nearby shrubs and trees, and from unguarded and abandoned nests, and present them to the female. She weaves a platform and a saucer-shaped nest cup, lining it with pine needles, moss, reeds, dry grass, mangrove leaves, or small twigs. Nest building can take from 3 days up to 2 weeks; the finished nest can range from a simple platform measuring 20 inches across to more elaborate structures used over multiple years, reaching 4 feet across and nearly 3.5 feet deep. Ground-nesting herons use vegetation such as salt grass to form the nest. Our marsh grasses are still lying flat from all the coastal flooding this year and they would make excellent nesting sites and materials for Grandaddy and his new mate.
Mabel and Harold, the Perennial Canadian Goose Couple
Mabel and Harold arrived right on time in early March. They nest in the marsh grasses behind our house every year and spend the month of March scouting out nest sites. Much to our disapproval, my next door neighbors feed them so the two geese often can be heard in their yard, honking their requests for breakfast. Early in April, they chose a site very near last year’s nest and Mabel settled in. Harold spends all day, every day, swimming near the nest, and watching for predators. We have eagles and osprey nearby and last year, we witnessed an altercation, with Harold finally successful in chasing the eagle away. Also last year, it seemed that the chicks hatched late – well into June. Jim and I are like expectant grandparents, waiting for the new family each year. Mabel and Jim’s family was small – six goslings. In previous years, we’ve seen as many as twelve. I wonder if weather makes a difference this year.
I am in constant awe at the devotion Harold and Mabel display for each other and for their parental responsibilities. When Mabel leaves the nest to feed, Harold greets her with dramatic honks and neck-nipping. Once, the two somehow were separated and Harold honked non-stop for thirty minutes in our neighbor’s yard, disconsolate at his mate’s absence. Mabel did eventually return to him, prompting Jim and me to speculate on a secret affair???
Mindfulness and Communing with Nature
At this point, you may be thinking that Jim and I “need to get a life.” LOL! Well, this is the most satisfying, mindful life I could have chosen for my retirement years. During our last four years on Manklin Creek, our unique opportunity to observe nature has awakened, transformed and connected me to my innermost sense of self. Nature brings me peace and nourishes my need for interconnection with the universe. Research indicates that spending time in nature affects the physical and mental health of children, youth, and adults in positive ways. That is certainly true for me. Even more, the daily communion with nature, along with meditation, is my path to enlightenment.
By William Blake
Sound the flute!
Now it’s mute.
Day and night.
In the dale,
Lark in the sky,
Merrily, merrily to welcome in the year.
Full of joy,
Sweet and small.
Cock does crow,
So do you.
Merrily, merrily to welcome in the year.
Here I am
Come and lick
My white neck.
Let me pull
Your soft wool.
Let me kiss
Your soft face,
Merrily, merrily we welcome in the year.