By Dan Kirk
Henry the Great Blue Heron lives in the San Francisco Bay, often seen in and around boggy wetlands. Sometimes on the Bay Trail you can see Henry standing still, about 4 feet tall, peacefully resting, or patiently waiting to snag a fish. When the sky is cloudy, and the water is grey/blue, Henry camouflages with the surrounding environment or rather, visa versa. Only when against the backdrop of, say, the green succulent ice plant, or the pale ivory of pampas grass does Henry’s location become visible, subtly revealing a popping blue figure with an S-shaped neck and dark long knobby legs. Henry does have a bright yellow beak, not at all as large as its neighbor Pelican, but large enough to swallow rodents, fish, other smaller shoreline birds, salamanders, frogs and other types of amphibians, reptiles and crustaceans whole. Depending on who’s watching, it’s either entertaining or disturbing to watch Henry eat, seeing Chips the Crab slowly descend down Henry’s long gullet. I’m a pescatarian myself who also likes to eat crab, so I’m emotionally unscathed by the sight. If Henry snagged a little ground squirrel on the other hand, well I’d probably still think that’s cool.
When I shout “Hi Henry!”, Henry does not greet back, but I’ve lived a long enough life to know that that’s just how the game goes. I’ve never heard Henry’s voice, but you can most likely hear it on Alcatraz Island where Henry breeds and nests within a large colony there. It’s a close call as to whether riding Bart from Ashby to 16th and Mission or hearing a colony of 90 Great Blue Herons make their squawking calls and beak snapping noises is more destructive to the ears, but no one has to be subject to a colony of herons if they don’t want to be, so there’s the difference– worth noting. Anyway, come to think of it, because it is February, Henry may be on Alcatraz right now, as it is the season for Great Blue Herons to breed and nest. By April, if Henry’s eggs don’t get eaten by rodents and racoons, it’s possible to have 3-5 new little herons who hatch and grow to be independent marshland scavengers. I’m not sure how old Henry is, or how many children Henry has, but I do know that maybe I’ve seen them before, and maybe you have too.
The truth is, there are Henrys all over, in almost all places across the U.S., but the even bigger truth is that there’s a Henry inside each and every one of us. Start searching for the blue inside you.