I look up to the sky and feel uneasy in my stomach. It really doesn’t look like a good time to start a long hike. The clouds are gathering and forming ominous pillars on one side of the mountain, gradually turning the bright blue sky to grey. I dread being caught out in a storm up here in alpine country as I’ve already witnessed how the clouds can fall down and become thick, disorientating fog. I might need to change my plans.
I spot a large bird soaring in circles overhead with its wings outstretched in a glide. I hope it’s an eagle, but its long beak and lengthy legs suggest it’s not. I’m puzzled as to what else would be that big and flying so high. I zoom in and track it with my camera though it doesn’t help me identify the type of bird.
I trust my instincts about the weather and decide a one-hour circuit is a more sensible choice than the five-hour trek I have planned. I check the pamphlet I picked up at the local pub and find out how to get to a shorter trail that will take me to a scenic lookout.
Soon I come across a marshy pond and am startled to see a white-necked heron in the middle walking around on its stilt legs. I realise this was the bird that had been soaring high in the sky about twenty minutes before and by total coincidence I have walked by where it landed to feed. It doesn’t care I am here, probably aware I mean no harm and I’m not likely to wade into the dark, cold pond layered with green aquatic growth.
It patiently watches the water, sometimes dipping its beak in to peck at insects or whatever else it can see in there. The combination of its strong, solid form and striking blue-grey feathers with burgundy highlights make the heron a powerful and commanding presence.