I saw him before the dogs. In the early light, he was a grey mass nestled near the briars.
Though the dogs hadn't spotted him, he decided it was best to take flight. The great blue heron has to make that decision faster than most birds. His big body, with the gangling legs, long neck and pointed beak, just doesn't lift airborne as quickly as other fowl.
The Border collies, busy in their mouse hunting game, didn't notice until he was 20 feet in the air. They showed little interest in the great bird as he circled the area. Clearly, he didn't want to leave his pond.
I don't recall seeing the great herons when I was growing up in the 1970s. But, when horseback riding in the 1990s with my birder friend, I began to notice these prehistoric-looking birds.
"They bring good luck," she said, and we always delighted in spotting one on the way to endurance riding competitions. That would certainly mean we'd have a good horseback ride.
The great blue heron is no longer rare in Ohio. Though, my breath still catches when I spot one. I've seen this guy a lot this year, as he enjoys fishing in the pond that I pass when walking the dogs.
On this Thanksgiving morning, the pond already had patches of ice from the first cold spell of the season. Soon, this heron would be moving on in search of unfrozen water.
And so I lingered, watching the bird, reflecting on the joys I've associated with the heron over the years, and treasuring the joy of spotting him on Thanksgiving Day.