For the Birds

By Diane DeVaughn Stokes

Each year just like the swallows arriving back at Capistrano, green herons fly into the empty lot across the lake from my house. Okay, it’s not a big lake, and some might even call it a man-made drainage ditch, but to the fifteen or so of us who bought homes on Birdfield Lake in Myrtle Beach, it’s definitely a lake. Not to mention, these lots were being sold for $10,000 more than the others in the neighborhood. It’s just awesome to have water in your backyard that brings ducks, geese, turtles, blue herons, egrets and other of God’s creatures that provide lots of folly and free entertainment, especially if you are a nature lover like me. My nieces call me “Aunt Snow White,” and I must admit I am over the top about taking care of outdoor friends. Gosh even that sounds a little loony!

I’m not sure that many of my neighbors even care about the lake. My husband and I are usually the only ones sitting waterside in our Adirondack chairs watching the live show, binoculars in hand. Some of the neighbors probably think we are peeping toms trying to see into other homes, when we are innocently spying critters! We even built a boardwalk all along our property line that adjoins the lake to enjoy the evening breezes. In the past twenty-four years since we built our home, we have certainly gotten our extra $10,000 worth of property value with incredible sightings, even a Bald Eagle and an owl or two! And the only lot without a house on it sits directly across from ours, filled with lots of wax myrtles and bushes, so there is no doubt we get the best in show!

But let’s get back to the green herons. As April wraps up each year, we begin to see these graceful birds flying around the lake in a circular mating dance of sorts. They collect sticks to build their nests deep into the shrubbery and vegetation. Having researched these birds I know that the incubation period is 19-21 days with both parents assisting with the incubation, producing from three to five eggs. Offspring start to climb out of their nests at 16-17 days and make their first flight at 21-23 days.

Maybe it’s my imagination, but the shrill of the parents seems louder and prouder as they introduce their young to us. The mother and father come out from the foliage and perch on a branch as we wait patiently for the young ones to make their debut. It’s an amazing waltz as the little ones stretch their long yellowish legs bravely stepping out upon a limb, sometimes falling off into the water. But with a few flips of their tiny wings they are back up in a safe zone. They start out slowly hopping from branch to branch. Days later they progress, flying from limb to limb, strengthening their wings as they go, building confidence to take to the sky. And their flight is quite amazing, as they seem to be able to glide forever without flapping their wings until they approach landing.

Parents are deep turquoise green with a reddish, chestnut purple neck, orange beady eyes with a yellow patch leading to their pointy and dagger-like beak. Their legs are orange and they appear to have a short squatty neck but it can elongate in seconds to catch or swallow a fish. They are shiny and iridescent with a head crest that raises and lowers instantly looking like a totally different species. The juveniles are browner with thin white streaks that look like varicose veins covering their torsos. They have bright yellow eyes and just the slightest tint of green on the edge of their wings.

Green Herons can stand motionless for the longest time waiting for dinner to appear as they stalk aquatic insects, frogs, worms, small rodents but mostly fish. They are rare in their dining behavior as they sometimes bait their prey by dropping feathers or a bug on top of the water hoping a fish will surface to eat the bait and in turn the Green Heron snatches the fish.

Pretty cool, huh? And having spent way too much time in observation of these beautiful creatures as you can tell, it is both parents that feed their offspring by regurgitation.

I look forward to this miracle on the lake every year. And I know what you are thinking. This woman needs to get a life! But really, isn’t it the “small pleasures” that bring the most joy if you’ll only slow down and take the time to cherish what’s around you?

Sometimes I think I will never go on vacation again as I get such great joy everyday in my own backyard. Thankfully most of you do not know where I live or you would be reporting me to the authorities to be committed to the crazy house! But please don’t do that yet, because now that fall is here, I anxiously await the annual arrival of my fine-feathered friends, the Belted Kingfishers!

About this writer

  • Diane DeVaughn Stokes

    Diane DeVaughn Stokes

    Diane is the host and producer for “Inside Out” as seen on HTC TV Channel 4, and serves as a commercial spokesperson for several local businesses. She and her husband Chuck own Stages Video productions in Myrtle Beach and share passions for food, theater, travel and scuba diving.

    They own three four legged kids that they adore!

You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

One Response to “For the Birds”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    Your property sounds idyllic and I too, treasure these simple pleasures.

Leave your mark with style

Comment in style

Stand out from the crowd and add some flare beside your comment.
Get your free Gravatar today!

Make it personal

avatar versus gravatar Close