Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Nature Kills Me

I hadn't expected to be posting again so soon, but my walk in Central Park had a nice resonance with Joe's most recent post. I first saw this fella (or dame, I don't know) on the far side of a small pond. Even with my tightest shot, this was as big as I could get the image. Suddenly, it was as if the egret (or is this a small heron?) had read my thoughts, and decided to help me out. He flew across the pond (I love how they skim just above the water) landing on the shore directly in front of me. (My camera doesn't respond very quickly, so I was lucky to get a shot of him with wings out-stretched at all. ) There was a fairly large crowd around me who had been there for a while, and farther along the pond there were other people actually feeding some ducks, so it doesn't seem like he was coming over in the hopes of a hand-out. I noticed I was the only person around wearing a white t-shirt. Maybe he thought I was another egret. This event was definitely all about me, no question.
Unfortunately, also sitting on my bench was another guy with a camera, who seemed to believe mistakenly that the bird had flown over for his benefit. He got up and began moving far too fast (in my opinion) and too close (ditto) for the bird's comfort. The latter tried to accomodate us for a bit, but then flew to another more secluded spot on the pond. Eventually he flew back nearby me (but on the opposite side from the other guy, so I know it was all about me), but not as close as before, taking advantage of the protection afforded by a willow tree and some tall weeds. By the way, what do you think, do long-necked water birds deliberately choose locations and poses that make them look like Chinese paintings? Why did this bird go right to this rock, for example? I see no benefit in it for him, but it does make a lovely composition.

Anyway, I wasn't able to get as close as I might have, had Mr Eager Beaver not chased the egret away before, but I still managed to get some nice shots. How on earth does something with a neck this skinny manage to hold its head up, or eat anything solid? Nature kills me sometimes.

With that thought, I once again call on my plant and tree experts; what the hell is this? It was close to a small playground, so at first I wondered if it were artificial, and part of a Dr. Suess theme. Seriously, doesn't this look like a truffula tree? I kept looking around for the Lorax, but he never showed. Closer examination proved it to be an actual growing tree, but I have never seen anything like it before. Can anyone help me out here? This can't possibly be native to North America, can it?


Butch said...

They have their favorite dining spots as well. From the looks of one of your pictures, the wee fish hide under the water plants and the heron knows exactly where they will be.

The other fellow on the bench sounded like the type of "nature-lover" who care less about others around himself and did things to amuse himself regardless of the consequences. They are the ones who speak loudly when walking through a nature preserve scaring away the fauna in the process. ;-(

My word verification: axnay
Sounds like "Pig-Latin" ;-)

somewhere joe said...

What you've captured here appears to be a great egret, larger than the diminuative cattle egret, or the fancy snowy egret. I too have noticed that they're often positioned decoratively near a rock or bough.

Charming photos. The egret landing is lovely. I like the one where it's perched on the rock. Did you notice that a turtle is climbing aboard, too? I can see the advantage of alighting on the rock; it's in a dock-like position, and has a commanding view over the water.

Speaking of neckage, I learned on Nature (PBS) that the giraffe has the highest blood pressure in the world! Those acacia leaves must be quite the prize. While fact-checking this at Wiki, I came across this tidbit:

"Another function of necking [apart from the 'necking duels' fought to establish access to estrous females] is affectionate and sexual, in which two males will caress and court each other, leading up to mounting and climax. Same sex relations are more frequent than heterosexual behaviour. In one area 94% of mounting incidents were of a homosexual nature. The proportion of same sex courtships varies between 30 and 75%, and at any given time one in twenty males will be engaged in affectionate necking behaviour with another male. Females, on the other hand, only appear to have same sex relations in 1% of mounting incidents." But then with a name like Geoffrey... puhlease.

Mr. Great obviously had his eye on you. And I though I had a corner on irresistible t shirts.

Java said...

There is what I believe to be a great blue heron who likes to snack in the creek behind my mother's condo. I'm always a bit wary of aligators for the bird's sake.

We have a tree here in The South that looks similar to your truffula tree, called the mimosa. It's something of a weed tree down here, though I've always liked them. I don't think what you have there is a mimosa, though.

Marc said...

Well, since Greg hasn't ID'd this yet, I shall. It is a smoke bush; this particular one appears to be a pink smoke bush. I don't know if it's native to the U.S. or not, but I would guess yes, since my friends Brad and Bob back in Kansas have one and have had for about 18 years. If they have it in Kansas, pretty safe bet it's native to the U.S.(ha.)

Greg said...

Sorry, I was late to this picnic...I don't know how, exactly...but I concur with Marc...smoke bush, indeed, though I know little about them except from catalogs!!

Beautiful bird shots, Patrick--what a gift that park is!! I was going to suggest great blue heron, but closer examination suggests the great egret Joe suggests...

(BTW, for the future, the trick to sexing these big birds is to follow them and see which rest room they use...)

Greg said...

Hey, wait...no talk of omens from the natural world?? This *must* be a lucky one...

Greg said...

BTW, the Lorax *would've* been there, but he had an appointment at the White House...something about "clear-cutting" and "endangered species".

Java said...

Greg finally showed up to this picnic and has had a lot to add. Glad you made it, Greg!

Cooper said...

I am not surprised that the egret sought your company among the throng. He knew when a soul is a part of the heartbeat around him.

I've never seen that tree before. It looks like pink cotton candy. It's wonderful.

Patrick said...

Butch: Yes, the weeds and tree must be a great hide-out for fish, thus an attractive one for my bird friend too. I bet Joe is right about the rock though; it gives Mr Egret a nice view.

I tried not to be too hard on the idiot chasing the bird like an overly agressive paparrazzo; I can easily feel possessive about Central Park, because of the long winter months I spent walking dogs there, when hardly anyone else was around. In Spring I'd always be a bit amused at myself, because I'd feel some annoyance at the johnnys-and jennys-come-lately. "Oh SURE, you all come out when the weather is NICE. Well, I was here five days a week, rain or shine people! I stuck with this place even when the going was tough. Get out of my way. And you bikers, using your brakes, not your fucking bell, you're not even supposed to be on these paths!"
Mostly this guy's crime was being there when I wanted him somewhere else. That's one of my problems with cities; people are always in my WAY. But I appreciate your commiseration :)

Joe: Thanks for the ID. Great Blue Herons are the only birds of this type I can identify confidently.

And thanks for the info on giraffes! Who knew? They sound like 5th Century Athenians? Perhaps they should be the new gay mascot, replacing the flamingo. You're right, the name should have tipped us off, especially when he insisted on Geoffrey, NEVER Jeff (not even Geoff).

Java: alligators? Seriously? Alligators that could take on a GBH? I'd be worried about ME getting near that river. Florida really is the tropics, I have to remember.

Marc: thanks for the ID, I can't believe I've never seen one of these before. Watch, now I'll see them everywhere. I can't wait to see what other colors they come in. For some reason I don't think I would have found it so funny if I'd seen a different color the first time; something about this pink just struck me as delightfully comedic. I'm sure it's not accident that it's right by a playground.

Greg: well, I certainly found the close approach momentous, but simply seeing him in this pond wasn't noteworthy. When I was dogwalking, I was by this pond five days a week, and he, or a close relative, were often in residence. I no longer make a big fuss over seeing red-tailed hawks in this vicinity, for the same reason. That's yet another reason to appreciate the park, no? And that poor Lorax: I'm sure he's got way too many meetings to attend.

Cooper: you're a sweet man as always. I am only half-kidding when I say I think this guy was coming to check me out. Hey, maybe he recognized me from seeing me every day ten years ago, and wanted to catch up! I hadn't even thought of that. It wasn't the t-shirt at all! It does look like cotton candy, doesn't it. I also could see it being a Muppet.

Birdie said...

I share your sense of wonder with nature. I think when we are absorbed in our surroundings like this, it DOES become all about us because we feel a part of it. The connection is real. Thanks for making me a part of it, too.

tornwordo said...

I love the haired-out tree, and the connection to that bird is very cool. I had a similar incident with a crow once. Have you seen the crow/cat youtube video?

Father Tony of the Farmboyz said...

That "truffula" tree is really a cotinus coggyra, comonly known as Smoke Bush. Easy to grow in New England. The trick to giving them a nice "bowl" shape is in the pruning of them when they are young. I used to take a very zen approach to pruning ours, and to pruning the plum trees we had on the farm. They also require a slowing circling and inspection while deciding which branches to cut.