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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

“Trust”: Great Blue Heron

Air Date: Week of

A Great Blue Heron flies toward its mate sitting in the nest with their just-hatched young. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

The long-legged, broad-winged Great Blue Heron gathers in colonies to breed. Living on Earth's Explorer-in-Residence Mark Seth Lender shares his observations of one mating pair sharing the duties of parenting at a rookery inland of the Connecticut River.


BASCOMB: In many species of birds both parents share the duty of caring for eggs and raising chicks. Living on Earth’s Explorer in Residence, Mark Seth Lender, shares his observations of Great Blue Herons on the Connecticut River.

Great Blue Heron
Heron rookery inland of the Connecticut River
© 2021 Mark Seth Lender
All Rights Reserved

Cloud lowering from the sky. Blue as starlight at the first glow of morning. Wings wide as a double-doorway. Great Blue Heron! Lands, on the branch above the nest. It bends and springs beneath him. Folds, and steps and comes to rest on the rim, above his mate deep in the nest where she lies, cover, to their just-hatched young.

She does not move.

He looks on.

On her not a feather stirs as if asleep.

His long neck inclines, in her direction. Waits… And waits… And looks and waits… And the great wide foot of him reaches out and touches her back – tap-tap – gently as that.

And nothing...


And nothing...


At last!

She raises her head but will not turn, does not look at him. He makes no further move. Him in certainty and patience. Her, like a bell before it chimes. Both in review of their silent conversation:

“It’s all right,” (tap-tap). Trust me with them,” (tap).

The female Great Blue Heron leaves the nest in search of food after her mate returns. (Photo: Mark Seth Lender)

Says you!

“You are hungry.”


“I will still stay.”


You will?

“You can go. Go eat. Everything will be… all right.” (tap-tap-tap) “Go.”

Stiff from her long sojourn close and closed as an eggshell, she comes to her feet, a momentary glance at him, then out and over the tall trees, the low hill, towards where river and salt water meet and the tidal flats replete with the fat of the sea.

BASCOMB: That’s Living on Earth’s Explorer in Residence Mark Seth Lender. For photos check out the Living on Earth website, loe.org.



Find the field note for this essay here

Mark Seth Lender’s website

Thanks to Destination Wildlife

Learn more about the Great Blue Heron


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