Editor’s note: Brooklin author/photographer Richard J. Leighton creates the popular “In the Right Place” posts online about life and nature in Maine. He will share a post the second Thursday of each month in The Ellsworth American.
The former Washington, D.C., trial lawyer and his architect wife, Barbara, summered in Brooklin for more than 25 years before making it their permanent home in 2015. To see more of his work, visit www.5backroad.com.
Shadows and ghosts
The fog is thick. There’s about 15 feet of visibility as we begin to pick our way along Great Cove’s rocky shore. Above the sound of the lapping tide, we hear “whump, whump, whump,” silence. “Whump, whump, Whump.”
We think we know what it is: big wings pushing and pulling heavy air, then gliding. Very near. We wait.
It emerges as a silent shadow almost directly over us: its legs and toes are perfectly aligned and its huge wings are extended straight out, a gliding swan dive that defies gravity; its war bonnet plumes are streaming from its prehistoric head; its long beak is a spearhead piercing the fog.
Then, its wings move in large, rolling undulations — “whump- whump, whump.” It disappears in the mull. We’ve glimpsed a great blue heron or the ghost of one.
Great blues are the largest herons in the United States and are common summer visitors in Maine. They breed and nest in dense colonies here, usually along the coast. However, there has been a noticeable decline in their nests and the state has listed the Great Blue as a “Species of Special Concern.”
In 2009, Maine wildlife officials initiated a continuing study to help find the causes of the great blue’s decline. There apparently have been no definitive results yet, but we have learned from the study that some of our great blues take their winter vacations in Florida, Cuba, Haiti and the Bahamas.
— Richard Leighton