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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

It’s Our Nature

By Phil Plait

One of the things that still surprises me about living in Colorado, even though I’ve been here for more than seven years now, is the wildlife. I’ve never lived in “the country” before, and when you do, inevitably, nature pops up.

The other day I was just hanging out, wondering if my sinuses were going to let me get any writing done, when out of the corner of my eye I saw movement. I’m used to birds and the neighbor’s dogs and such, but this was something big. I could tell right away it was likely a heron, but I grabbed my camera with the long lens, and snapped a few shots. The one above shows it in a bit of context.

This zoom below made it pretty clear: It’s a great blue heron. I poked around online and found that we have lots of herons in Colorado, so to make sure I posted it to Twitter, and immediately got a lot of responses confirming my ID.

He (?) was roughly a meter tall and walked out of sight pretty quickly. Still, wow, what a graceful and elegant bird. I was surprised to learn they’re threatened, with only about 1,600 nesting pairs in the state. This one is likely to do well; I’ve seen huge fish jumping out of the pond. I imagine there are plenty of heron-size snacks swimming around.

The wildlife here is pretty striking. Coyotes, foxes, great horned owls (I saw one on my roof a few weeks ago, and criminy, it was huge) … we have a bald eagle that flies around here too, but it’s hard to get a good shot of it. My wife and I saw it fishing in the pond a few months ago; it got attacked by magpies, which eventually scared it off so they could steal the fish.

Heckle and Jeckle are jerks.

As spring settles in I may post more pictures here. It’s a reminder to me that there’s a lot of beauty and majesty in the world. That’s something I’d like to share with you, too.

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