Friday, August 26, 2011

Of Cranes, Herons, or Egrets?

 It's a lesson I have to keep re-learning---that it's all in who you know---that is, who you talk to, and in this case, what who you talk to thinks they know.

Being a girl from the plains of Kansas, I know little of island life, and less about the barrier islands of south Georgia, where I am now, on my latest self-imposed writing retreat.  Stepping from a dock onto a boat terrifies me, despite being not a bad swimmer.  Even in Kansas, we had to take swimming lessons at the municipal pool of the nearest town, seven miles up the road.

But one can learn a lot from the locals, so on Wilmington Island, I ask questions of those I meet.

First, after hearing Guy #1 (and many others)  refer to the tiny island of solid ground in the middle of the marsh as the "hammock," I asked how to spell it.
Just like it sounds, said Guy #2, h-a-m-m-o-c-k.
In the context of the marsh, I wanted to know more, so I asked the next guy. Tell me about the hammock.  Are there snakes here? (I was nervous about walking across the roots in sandaled feet)
You mean the "hummick," grinned Guy #3.
Really?  How do you spell that?
Just like it sounds, h-u-m-m-i-c-k.
I looked it up.  Dictionary definition:  Hummock:  A piece of forested ground rising above a marsh."

Next question, next day, new person on the dock:
What are those tiny creatures all over the boardwalk that scurry sideways when your foot falls in their territory?
Guy #1:  I don't know, little crabs, I guess.
Guy #2:  Baby crabs.  They'll grow up to be the big blue crabs we eat.  But some people will tell you they're fiddler crabs.
Guy #3:  Not the same as blue crabs. That's as big as they ever get.  They're just food for the birds.   Lots of people fish with them.

New day, new question:  (in preparation for this blogpost---call it research :-)
Me:  Are those herons---the big white birds in the marsh?
Guy#1:  You mean the cranes?  Nah, they're just cranes.  I don't know what kind.
Me, with rephrased question of next guy:  What kind of cranes are those?
Guy #2:  They're not cranes.  They're herons.  White herons.
Gal #3:  Neither crane nor heron.  They're great egrets.  Aren't they spectacular birds?

I'm going with great egret.  Gal #3 sounded like she knew what she was talking about.  Besides, it's so poetic.

Gal #3 turns out to be a horticulturalist.  Judy.  She and her husband Buddy and dog Dylan took me out in their boat at high tide.  In addition to being lovely people, they were fountains of knowledge about the islands.  Judy assured me there are no snakes on the hummock.  Only legless lizards.  Comforting.

Tomorrow:  Hurricane Irene


Some Great Egrets on Wilmington Island
On the distant dock

Mother and youngster?
Too close for comfort. 
Brilliant in the sun
View from my deck
It's called a boardwalk for a reason
From Buddy and Judy's boat
Lift off
 Buddy and Judy and Dylan

Thanks for the ride!  dkm  


Book Worm said...

Debbie, there were a couple Great Egrets this summer at Clyde Shepherd. The smaller egret was not a youngster but a Snowy Egret. If you enlarge the photo you can see the Snowy's "golden slippers." Mary

dkm said...

Thanks Mary---even more interesting than a youngster--b/c I saw the two of them together a lot---now wondering if they were the same ones all the time, or I just happened to catch random birds crossing each others' paths. They stood together for long periods of time in the marsh grass.

Judy also said the snowy's feet are yellow--and that both species live in the marsh---I also saw a lot of green herons around the dock---

How did a great egret get to Clyde Shepherd? Passing through?

Mike B. @ said...

I love their curved necks. I saw in the Sibley guide that their blood vessels actually move to the back of the neck at the front of the curve, probably to prevent them from injuring themselves while stabbing for food.

dkm said...

Very interesting--- they do stab fast---those little crabs don't stand a chance---I never once thought of the blood vessels in their necks!

Jane Robertson said...

Haha - I had a conversation like one of these with my cousin Claire the other day. We were walking in marshy land near Heathcote. Claire thought it was an egret, I thought it was a grey heron... not sure either of us knew.

Isn't 'knowledge' and language wonderful! So diverse.

Love the 'lift-off photo :-)

dkm said...

Here's to the diversity!

Patricia Lichen said...

Including the interesting diversity you're getting in response to your questions!