By Charles Towne

Another episode in the life of a great blue heron.  What I am describing here I am sure is a rare occurrence.  That it does happen is sure but that it is witnessed is rarer still.

Look over there, do you see the great blue heron?
 Herons are such beautiful creatures, sedate, always so dignified. As our canoe slowly drifts past, the large bird seems to be sleeping, or perhaps it is meditating?

Lifting one wing the heron grooms itself, combing out its feathers in little shaky moves of that versatile beak, and then it repeats the procedure under the opposite wing.   It shakes vigorously, and a fluffy breast feather flutters to the water’s surface. A vagrant breeze, a breath of wind carries the feather off as though it has a life of its own.  Or perhaps it is not a feather at all, but rather a Lilliputian ship on a voyage from here to there.

Another great blue heron is wading along the shore in water that is deep enough to almost reach its body.  It suddenly stops and in slow motion, lowers its head, pointing that terrible beak at something that only it can see.  The very personification of patience, it holds that intense pose.

Suddenly, like an arrow shot from a bow, the beak is thrust forward unerringly and almost immediately withdrawn, a six inch long bream struggling weakly, nerves paralyzed, impaled.

With a quick flick of the heron’s beak, the fish is flipped into the air, caught by the head even as it falls toward the water, and swallowed.

We are on the beautiful Wekiva River.   Almost silently we move on, the only sound the dripping of water as our paddles propel us down the stream.

Oh yes, there are other sounds, but they are natural.  A fish splashes behind us and almost beside us there is suddenly the sound of breaking twigs on the riverbank, followed by a splash, as an alligator, small, perhaps six feet long, disturbed by our passage, retreats to the safety of the dark brown, tannin-colored water.

A little further along we pass a yellow-crowned night heron concealed in some thick bushes at the river’s edge.  She watches us warily from her nest as our momentum carries us past.

Look, up ahead of us. Another great blue heron!  What a magnificent bird.  We sit and watch as it fishes.

This is prime habitat for many of the varied species of Florida’s wildlife.  Abundant fish frequent the waters, and though it is fresh water, even stingrays; sometimes in schools of as many as fifty or sixty, having swam upstream from their ocean habitat near Jacksonville Florida, seem to fly through the shallow water.

A variety of turtles, snakes, and of course, the alligator, all call it home.  

 There are bobcat here, and otter, as well as raccoons and possums. This is also home to the whitetail deer, and also ursas Americanus Floridanus, my friend, the Florida black bear.

Look, the heron has caught a fish and is in the process of eating it.

Suddenly, another great blue heron appears.  It glides around a small point of land On those magnificent, silent wings and blind-sides the fishing heron, surprising us, as well as the heron; knocking it down into the shallow water in a flurry of wings and splashing water.

Swiftly, faster almost than our eyes can follow, the attacker’s beak flashes in a series of lethal strikes. The victim of this attack tries desperately to regain its feet but in vain.  It opens its beak, snapping at its attacker.  And then, almost before it has begun, it is over.

The attacker stands over the body for a few seconds, watching.  Then it shakes itself to settle ruffled feathers and lifting into the air with a raucous squawk of victory, it is gone.

The heron’s body lies unmoving in the shallow water.    By tomorrow it will likely be gone, eaten by an ever hungry alligator.

(The only thing that I can imagine that might have precipitated such a deadly attack is a territorial issue. Usually, great blue herons are very tolerant of their own kind, but on that day no tolerance was shown.)

                         AN OUTDOORSMAN’S PRAYER 

       Dear God, please help me to be tolerant of others as you are tolerant of me.  Teach me to be patient, allowing others to be themselves, and never strike out verbally or any other way in revenge or from spite.  Help me to epitomize my lord and master Jesus Christ in all matters.  I praise you Father, and I thank you for giving me victory this day.  In Jesus’ Holy and wonderful name I ask it, Amen.

Charles Towne is first and foremost a Christian. An octogenarian, author, journalist, wildlife photographer, naturalist, caregiver, and survivor, his life has been and continues to be, a never-ending adventure filled with possibilities never imagined. He has adopted the philosophy that to Live fully, laugh uproariously, love passionately, and learn like there is no tomorrow, is a formula for a long and joy-filled life.


  1. “And HIS word promises, “And there will be no more death!” It is most difficult to imagine. What a wonderful God we serve. And all He asks is for us to be faithful! Blessings on you and yours my friend, Chaz

  2. I witnessed a similar event on the Wekiva River last evening. Spectacular bird watching opportunity right before sunset. We even spotted an eagle! We have so many lessons to learn from nature. One is patience and tolerance, right? I love the way you incorporate nature into life lessons. Have a fabulous day my dear friend.

  3. Herb, you are right my friend. What I don’t understand is why so many of us fail to take the time to explore and enjoy nature. It has been such an intimate part of my life from my earliest years, what a glorious gift He has given us if we will just take the time to examine it as He intends. Thanks for the comment and many blessings on you pal, Chaz

  4. Dear NH, You and your man are so blessed to enjoy nature together as you do. Being attuned to all of creation as you are is really such a divine gift. Papa God loves both of you my dear friends. Blessings, Chaz

  5. Chaz, I have canoed the Wekiva river often with friends but we have never seen nature as you describe it, WHY! PLEASE, I CONSIDER MYSELF A GOOD OBSERVER BUT ALL WE SEE IS THE OCCASIONAL ALLIGATOR OR TURTLE AND COMMON BIRD! WHAT ARE WE DOING WRONG?

  6. Dear friend, please be assured, you are not unique in what you describe. Your frustration in what you describe is caused by several things, #one is the issue of numbers. Not the numbers of animals you might see, but the numbers of people present at any one time. The animals are there, but they are shy. One or two people will always see more than a group. “Quiet!” is the watchword! “Silence!” is the secret! Oh yes, #2 is the time. Early in the morning, or late in the day is best, and never on the weekend. Why not the weekend? Too many people present, too much noise. Oh yes, #3, Don’t talk, be still and use your eyes! Who knows what you might see? Blessings on you friend, Chaz

  7. Dear Friend, believe me when I say that you are not alone in your frustration at not seeing. So many of us go through life with our eyes “wide shut” therefore we see little, and realize even less. There are three things that defeat out purpose. #1 is noise, #2 is motion, and #3 is people. Let’s start with #3. The more people, anything more than one or two, the more noise is made, and the more chance there is of movement, and if there is noise and motion the chance of seeing anything monumental is minimized drastically. The experiences I describe in my articles have been accumulating for a lifetime. Keep on keeping on my friend, and enjoy. Blessings on you and yours, Chaz

  8. Sometimes the rules of nature seem capricious and unbelievably harsh but they apply equally to all! Maybe the first heron didn’t know he was encroaching if indeed that was the issue. How many times have we offended someone unintentionally, or even if we meant to, and getting a harsh response cry that it is unfair? I think we only think it is unfair if it happens to us, if it happens to the other guy it’s the way of things! Thank Papa God every day that his responses are based in love when we screw up! Sometimes it may seem harsh but if we consider, it could usually be a whole lot worse!
    I think your friend, judging by his email is talking too loud to listen to nature! God bless us and keep us, each and every one of us!

  9. That is an awesome story!
    I feel like I have spent an entire day outside enjoying God’s creation! My dear husband and I loved Wekiva Springs and all the serenity and wildlife that made it so special…and continue to make it special. Thank you for the memories. God bless you!

  10. Thank you Richard, excellent observation that comes into play whenever man gets involved. Take bears for instance. The all knowing state traps a bear and transports the animal to the Ocala forest. The bear is forced to encroach upon another bears territory, there is conflict. Nature is harsh of necessity. Good on ya Richard, Chaz

  11. Dear CSG, our memories are what is left over to enable us to learn and relive, and relive… Blessings on you dear heart, Chaz

  12. I agree with CSG – your vivid description is captivating. I too felt that I was accompanying you in the canoe. You’ve been gifted with the ability to observe and beautifully communicate your observations. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Another vividly recounted memory from your vast experience that teaches us all about nature. Your experience on the Weliva is but one very small piece of the wondrous world God created. Keep them coming.

  14. Dear Judith, if I can see something and share it with you, and in the sharing it becomes not only plausible, but real so that you can share it then it becomes not just a story heard or read but now it becomes a story real, then it becomes, and in the becoming it lives not only in my mind but in yours also. Please share. Blessings on you. Chaz

  15. Mike, Mike, I write what I see and what I have seen, and I write, as the song says, in the “rainbow colors of my mind.” Thanks so very much my friend, and many blessings on you and yours. Chaz


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