Today, I headed out with Rosie and the stroller for a walk out past the mill buildings on the east side of the Squamscott. Heavy clouds encroached from the west, harkening rain, but we ventured out anyway, thinking we had just enough time before before getting wet. A crisp north wind. Slanting light emanating from cloudbreaks.
Pairs of small birds sliced through the air low over the water. Sharp wing angle, iridescent backs, light bellies. Clare Walker Leslie lamented the absence of tree swallows on her visit and she’d be glad to know that in the intervening days, they’ve returned. If you’ve never watched tree swallows in flight, it’s a true pleasure. Mini stunt pilots they are, all g-force and bravado, sometimes their wingtips carve thin grooves in the surface of the water as they dart for hovering insects.
A solitary male redwinged blackbird swayed in the breeze, balancing on a cattail stalk along the reservoir, baring his red and yellow shoulder badges. He let us approach to within ten feet before flitting away. 50 yards farther, we came upon a great blue heron wading shin-deep in a tangle of reeds; he took flight upon our approach, and with two or three wingbeats, glided to the opposite bank. We’d meet him again as we circled around.
On the return side of the reservoir, past our second brush with the heron (he crossed back over to his original spot!), a man with a telephoto lens flagged us down, pointing down a steepness of bank where a large round object rested on top of the reeds. “Snapper!” While the man entertained Rosie, I scuttled down the bank, closer, for a (poor) iphone picture. I thought of the time when I was six when I lost a hooked bluegill to a dark monster rising up from the muck. I can still see a thickly clawed reptilian hand (what do you call a turtle’s foot, anyway?) slashing my fish in two, leaving me with a dead-eyed hunk of flesh dangling on the end of my line. Or the time my dad thought it would be a good idea to pick up a cornered snapper by its stegosaurus tail, only to have it’s head shoot around lighting-quick from it’s shell in a defensive maneuver. I still don’t know how my old man has all his digits.