The Great Blue Heron, the Turkey Buzzards and the Ring-Necked Pheasant

It appears that I have a thing about birds.

It all started this year with the Great Blue Heron. He is a pretty bird, and it appears that he knows he has an audience. He makes his appearances along the Mississinewa River in Matter Park. To tell you the truth, I had avoided Matter Park for a couple of years before I saw him, preferring Paradise Spring in Wabash instead. People in Matter Park do not keep their dogs on leashes and then proceed to tell you how friendly they are while they are growling at you. It annoys me.

Anyway, the fact that the heron actually appears to show off amuses me, so I have been walking in the hope of seeing him. Most days I do. He is most impressive when he is fishing and the sun is shining on his feathers. Not so much when he is walking, though. Then, the way his neck moves makes him look like the dinosaurs that spit poison in Jurassic Park.

As I was looking for the Great Blue Heron the other day, I spotted some turkey buzzards. I wasn’t sure what they were at first; they were huge and they were landing on a little island in the middle of the river. I went closer for a better look. I had to find a break in the brush, but I got to study them for a while. They looked like turkeys with the red thing (wattle?) under their chins, but a lot uglier. That’s what made me decide they were turkey buzzards and not wild turkeys. Some people around here call them turkey vultures, but I think that is the same thing. They creeped me out. As if they sensed I was watching them, all six of them turned at the same time to watch me. Reminded me of the seagulls in FINDING NEMO going, “Mine, mine, mine, mine, mine….” I moved along.

I have been wary of birds since I had a close encounter with a ring-necked pheasant when we lived in Ohio. I know they are supposed to make an elegant meal, but I can’t hear their call without getting cold chills.

See, I had surgery on my neck about nine years ago, and the doctor said I should put zinc oxide, the kind of stuff that life guards put on their nose, on the scar if I went out in the sun. He said it would fade faster if it didn’t tan. I am female, so I come with a certain amount of vanity. I wanted the scar to fade, but I thought the zinc oxide on my neck looked stupid. My solution was to put the zinc oxide on and walk down my country road early in the morning when theoretically nobody would see me.

I had watched the pheasants for quite some time. A lot of them nested near the graveyard at the end of our road, and I almost always took a turn through the graveyard. On this particular morning, though, I heard a pheasant way before I saw it. She was out by the road, and she was obviously upset. I didn’t think her being upset could have anything to do with me. I wasn’t near any trees, and that’s where birds make their nests, right? So I couldn’t possibly have been near her nest.

Wish I could have reasoned with her! She dive-bombed me for what seemed like a hundred feet! I couldn’t figure it out, and having seen Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS, it really scared me. During her attack, I kept walking toward the graveyard instead of backing up to get away from her, so I felt dumb because now I had to go by her again. She was obviously wacko, and I had no idea what I had to do with it.

I began to wonder. I did have that ring of zinc oxide on my neck. Did the bird just think I was the biggest ring-necked pheasant she had ever seen? If so, no wonder she felt threatened. Not that I was any less fearful of the walk home.

I walked on the other side of the road to get home, and the bird harassed me, but she didn’t fly as close as she had on my way down the street. Still, I was glad to get by that turn in the road. Then there were a bunch of birds on the big chicken coop (and it WAS big; it had two stories and was about 150 X 40). Yuck!

My best friend lives down that road, and her dad often hunted. When I told her about the dive-bombing episode, she laughed and laughed. Turns out ring-necked pheasants nest on the ground, so I may very well have been near her nest. That didn’t change my opinion of pheasant, though. I would just as soon see one under glass as along the road after that little episode.

Wouldn’t want to see that happen to the heron, though. And as pretty as I think he is, he is a big bird, and I’d rather not be any closer to him than I have been.

As long as he stays in the river and I stick to my trail, we’ll be fine.


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