The Great Blue Herons

Something stalks the neighborhood in my mountains. Slowly and silently it creeps along the banks of the rivers and streams. It sharp eyes detect the slightest movement just below the water’s surface. It strikes like lightning and it’s prey has little chance of escaping the razor sharp beak.

The Great Blue Herons are one of my favorite birds. I have never seen a native species that reminded me more of a dinosaur. The one pictured here was close to three feet tall. The long serpentine neck, wide wingspan and habit of trailing it’s lags as it flies really makes one think that they’ve crossed into the distant past. This one also seems to have a sense of humor. It likes to lurk around just below the bridges in my neighborhood and spring up out of creek when you least expect it. If I didn’t know better I’d swear it laughs as it flies away. I haven’t been able to spot the nest yet but I do occasionally hear it’s grunting calls coming from the thick bush. They’re truly one of the more amazing sights in my wild wonderful West Virginia and hope you get to see one if you’re ever traveling close to the water. And, if you happen to hear a snicker it’s probably the one that likes to startle me.

Lessons Learned from Tiny

While on my way to my day job Sunday morning I noticed a familiar shape on the road. Unfortunately, the Eastern Box Turtle sees the warm road surface as a great place to absorb the morning sun and get the old metabolism going. And what’s worse is that not all drivers are alert enough notice them in time and a few are cruel enough to crush them on purpose. This one is just a baby! He was the smallest box turtle that I’ve seen in a long time. I just couldn’t leave the little guy to fate and so blocking the road with my truck I hopped out and scooped him up.

I wasn’t really sure what to do with him as I’m not a herpetologist. So, I carried him into the office where my coworker quickly found spare box, some scraps out the break room and came up with name Tiny. Tiny was declared to be our team mascot for the day and the whole crew fell instantly in love with him.

While he mostly just kinda sat in the box not understanding what was happening by the end of day he had become accustomed to the attention.

Originally the plan was for me to take him out of the city and relocate him to a nice secure place near my property (which borders the National Forest) . However, in researching how to properly care for him in the meantime we learned that because of strong homing instinct that such a move would almost certainly kill him.

Tiny was released on the same property where he was found but well away from the road.

During his short tenure as Department mascot he did manage to pass on a few words of ancient turtle wisdom.

1. Not everyone who messes up your plans has bad intentions. Tiny’s plans to warm up on the road had to be ruined for his own good.

2. Don’t be afraid to stick your neck out for a friend. Had Tiny not come out of his shell my coworkers would not have been impressed as much and been so motivated to research his well being.

3. There’s no place like home. The Eastern Box Turtle spends it’s entire lifetime (as much as 100 years!) within one mile of its birthplace.

That’s it. Tiny is just a baby and that’s all he had to share right now. But he and his kind have the potential to teach the same lessons to the great grandchildren of the humans born the same time he was. So, if you spot a turtle trying to cross a road (take your own personal safety into account FIRST) the best thing to do is to move it to the other side of the road as close to the woods as possible.

Back in the day, we would write or paint names and dates on the shell. That’s definitely not recommended today. Not only is it possibly toxic to the turtle but it messes up his camouflage that protects him from birds.