Great Blue Heron

The “silent stalker” of Iowa’s wetlands, the Great Blue Heron is the largest heron in North America. These tall birds are often seen standing still as statues along the water’s edge, waiting for a small fish to swim by. Great Blue Herons are colonial nesters, building nests in trees in small groups near water.

More information

See the Great Blue Heron's profile on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website.

Photo credits

Cover photo: By Nicole Monteregina via Flickr

Collage Photo (above): By Richard Crossley (Richard Crossley) CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


I see you.
Lifting from the marshy area,
wings outstretched
pumping the air to lift your body
to the sky.
I pause to watch.
It's simply another moment in time.
A moment to lose myself in your beauty.


silently strokes the air
swims above the river
then fixes his wings 
like a giant kite

upon a supple branch
floats down

a single feather
to equilibrium
still life 
a Japanese print

While it was still winter, the day warmed like a memory of a crisp spring day. I found myself searching for the gathering of bald eagles at Lake Red Rock, on a back road below the dam. To my surprise out the corner of my eye I spot a hint of color in a cove not many dared to go that time of year. A long neck, attentive eyes seeking fish along the melted Waters edge. Time stood still as I watched him. He was smaller than I knew them to be. He struggled near the edge finding his meal. Out of a pile of tiny limbs two larger herons swiftly padded around him, almost, as if to say.... enough of people watching, we have what you need behind the shelter, come with us. The larger herons glanced my way and paused briefly as if they too had not seen humans in months. I was awe struck by their color on a day in that cove with little other color around other than the winters harsh remains. As I watched them all pad off to get out of the chilly wind I wondered how their tiny thin legs were not as icy as mine. Their posture so erect and willingness to brave the lakes mean breeze. Thus grew my interest to seek them out and capture that eye contact again. I'll never forget how striking they looked on that cove, basking in the sun and utlizing winters remains happily.

Bike ride with a Heron

I was on I-80
In Wiota, Iowa
I thought I ought to
Stop in Wiota
And stretch my legs
With a ride on my bike.

So I went for a ride
Right beside 
Turkey creek
But no turkeys 
As I stretched my legs
With a ride on my bike.

But then there beside me
Right along biding me
Was a Great Blue Heron
Flying down Turkey on
as I stretched my legs 
with a ride on my bike.

We went the same pace
Neither losing face
By slowing or gaining
But both retaining
as I stretched my legs 
with a ride on my bike.

It was synchronicity
It was serendipity
It was fluid and grace
It was time and space
as I stretched my legs
with a ride on my bike.

I’ll never forget
I was an egret
When I was here on
Wiota’s Blue Heron
as I stretched my legs 
with a ride on my bike.


the heron bends low
waiting for a frog to call
to have the last word

Caught the train in Croton-on-Hudson
always by the stretch of my long legs
in those days before life shattered, 
a split second before the doors slid shut. 

On a good day, a window seat. 
Headphones on, New Yorker open, knitting in hands
as soon as we moved
I kept my eyes
on the river’s edge
as if I stared at the space where a lover had been.

Great blue heron, like a gorgeous umbrella
feet in the earth, legs stroked by water, wings ready for air
A good day, I thought, even before
I needed lucky omens
to survive collapse.


blue sliver 
now wide-winging in—
gangly spread swirl—
settling to stand, wade,
lake ripples quieting…
surely we would have missed you,
would have thought you…
a shoreline branch?
had we not witnessed 
your evening arrival
in the fading light…
shadowy blue 

Skinny old man in a shaggy cape
unhinged his bobbly elbows,
wobbled up on knobby knees
and blew his blue underneath
as we passed his marsh stump
on I-80. "Get a load of this!" 
he trumpeted. We said: "A heron! 
But what's in his mouth...?" 
A squirrel's tail twirled
like a sputtering propeller.

Cover over the sun and moon
with your blue wings and return
to us for good. Nothing to see 
here, folks, but the heron lifting
like a fog, the heron perched
on a log, the heron's empty nest,
the heron's head tucked rest.

In memory of Wayne Norman, Sr.

Dipping and stretching on limbs
thin as reeds,
blue in the endless
green, yellow of the river’s inlet;
great herons
search the sky for 
a companion – gone
with a sweep of the artist’s hand –
a bird ghost, a line left
under pastel rubbings.

Alone in the endless landscape
between four, square edges
of gold frame;
their silver steps 
forever stilled circles

on the surface 
of a silent stage.

stick legged in mud
blue fish spear on wispy pegs
lonesome angler waits


Maybe one of these days I will 
pronounce your name right (HAIR-en)
instead of like the Great Lake
but until then I will amble
unembarrassedly forward
like I did with facade, irrecoverable,
and all those other words (or non-words) 

whose hands I first shook
in books, in print, in my head
where I was free to characterize them,
O Great Heron, like you:
a winged thing sprouted from
serifed feet, something
grounded but vaguely capable
of flying into the wrong sort 
of nesting box

where it will sit all night, warming a stone and wondering
why it won't listen, peck its way
into the light 
of reason.

When all that surrounds is anything
but still
the heron
a reflection. Here on the edge of D.C.
on the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia,
the water struggles
towards clarity, and the recent flood
has built a trash sculpture
of a sideways shopping cart,
a lone car tire and ribbons
of plastic bags, trailing so like
water-weed. This heron
so still
we almost walk by. Ensorcelled
we wait. Sharp dart, silver gleam
and swallow. A swift unfurling
of wings, cloak of every
river I’ve ever walked.

Savage! Noble! Terrifying! 
Predatory! If only Bill Murray
Had a heron for the gopher in Caddyshack. When did you start eating meat? I thought you only ate veggies. 
Don't you know about climate change?
You should be a vegan. You get why
People hate millennials now? Will you snatch them up too?

Tinkertoy spine winds up to spear fish at its feet
He bends with grace and ease of a yogi....
Just two lines like kneeless legs
Legless knees, fish-head punctuation. 
Or is that a pelican? 
Drop it my way.