On my way to work today I saw something I had never seen before—a flock, albeit a small one, of great blue herons. Three of them, to be exact, flying in formation across the low grey sky.
Recently I have seen a pair of the smaller green heron, noteworthy for their brightly colored legs and feet, in the vicinity of the pond at GMU. They patrol the shore and shallows and nearby woods, and fly spectacularly. But they are no match for the great blues, unmistakable with their deep keels, long curved necks, deadly bills, gracefully extended legs and almost comically graceful flight made possible with the slightest exertion of their wingtips.
Earlier this week, a great blue took off from a pond next to where I work, then slowly, gracefully, ponderously gained both speed and altitude until it soared into the treetops nearby and disappeared. With each flap of its long wings, its scale appeared to change; it seemed to grow larger, more massive, with each stroke. By the time it reached the woods, it had transformed from a shore bird into a massive, commanding master of the sky.
I cannot envision anything but ancient pterodactyls when I see them in flight; slow, steady, unfaltering, their gaze fixed to a point on the far horizon. For the longest time, it always appeared to me that they only flew on paths diagonal to roadways; I never saw a heron cross a road perpendicular nor fly along one that I could recall. But recently I think I did see one cross a road at a right angle, and it seemed unnatural.
But I am sure that before today, I have only seen the great blue heron as a solitary traveler.