I was witness to an amazing spectacle this past Friday.
Halls Pond is a little hidden jewel just off Amory Street in Brookline. It is a small sanctuary with an interesting history, tucked away behind a large recreational field and a slew of concrete tennis courts. For those who don’t tarry too long (tarrying is standard operating procedure for photographers) the whole thing can be traversed in about 40 minutes flat. Most importantly however, Halls Pond has fish! To a Great Blue Heron, the fish part is a swell reason to hang out and enjoy a liquid Lazy Susan of snacks with fins.
Yin and Yang however exist in a perfect alliance; the right amount of one always accompanied by an appropriate portion of its opposite. And here is where it becomes complex for the herons.
The ubiquitous Red Wing Blackbird inhabits Halls Pond in significant numbers and this time of year is serious nesting time. When it comes to their nests, these five inch long scrappers are a prime example of an avian “Mickey Rooney” complex in action. Red chevrons on full display and uttering warning chirps that would make a drunken sailor blush if only he could understood the dialect, the Red Winged avengers will attack, dive bomb, strafe and harass any passerby who by chance ventures too close to the nest.
However in the case of the Great Blue Heron’s there is seemingly an escalation of assertiveness and territorialism that is all out of proportion to the magnitude of the sin. After all, it’s not like they said “Bite Me”. Actually the main vocalization a Great Blue Heron makes sounds more like a rather loud “GRAWK”. But it seems for the Great Blues, the provocation is their mere existence somewhere in the vicinity of the pond and the punishment for their infraction is unadulterated and relentless harassment.
On Friday I watched in amazement as two Great Blue Heron’s were dive bombed, pecked and clawed for more than an hour. It’s quite a sight to see; a three foot tall Heron with a five foot wingspan being tortured by the small but determined antagonists. The heron you see has little recourse as the smaller bird is faster and much more agile and so the big birds could only twist their heads from side to side looking to spot an incoming attack and attempt to duck to avoid the strike. Of the two Heron’s on Friday, one seemed more stoic about the matter and persevered for about twenty five minutes before taking wing for a safer location on the other edge of the pond. The other one was less able to cope with the stress and was basically chased from spot to spot until he settled under a cave like leafy overhang that didn’t allow enough room for the attacking Red Wings zip in and out.
When I returned on Saturday for another look, only one heron could be seen. Hmmmm. We shall see if all that maltreatment was sufficient to encourage one of the Herons to find a more peaceful Sushi bar.