Not long ago they were fledglings. Now they’re on their own.
And with no helicoptering parents issuing shrill warnings whenever a suspicious character approaches, some of the adolescent birds in the neighbourhood can now be seen right out in the open.
The juvenile Black-Crowned High Heron, above and below, is both more handsome and less cautious than its rather stodgy parents.
A juvenile Northern Flicker, on the other hand, lacks a distinctive red crest and looks awfully scruffy after a rub-down on a fence rail – but it already possesses the gilt-edged feathers that make it a flashy flyer.
As much as I’d like to believe otherwise, not every creature with a scraggly bit of fluff on its head is in the flower of youth. The White Admiral butterfly, below, is by definition in the final stage of its life, with egg, larva and pupa now in its past.
Likewise an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail shines brightly among the flowers but its fragile wings already show signs of wear and tear.
Around the edge of Bowmanville Marsh there seem to be more frogs this year than in the previous few years – a hopeful note given frogs’ reputation as “marsh canaries” who are very vulnerable to pollutants.
While there were few sightings of Snapping Turtles this summer, Painted Turtles have often been seen sunning themselves on logs in late afternoon.
Fish-eating birds must celebrate the many creatures swimming about in the marsh. A few Cormorants have recently joined the Great Blue Herons, Black-Crowned Night Herons and Green Herons.
The adult Green Heron is one of the stealthiest of the marsh-dwellers, and this year I’ve only caught one fleeting glimpse of this bird.
The youngster is a different story, and has posed on an open perch while I drifted by in a kayak three different times.
One bright morning the Green Heron and three Otters were all working the same corner of the marsh. I can’t be sure I understood their whole conversation but I think it went like this:
Ringleader of the Otters: “We’ve been wondering, how will you ever fly? As far as we can see you’re just a two-eyed neck on stilts.”
Soon-to-be-Green Heron: “Yeah well, if you had a spear like mine you wouldn’t have to swim so hard just to catch a fish. I gotta admit, though, you’re pretty cute for a gang of overgrown weasels.”
That’s all I heard before the wizened Otter and pals got back to play.
Photo at top: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Heron (click here for full-size view)