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For three magical years I lived on a boat 20 or so miles east of JFK Airport. There were challenges, especially in winter, but one of the treats was the ever-changing mix of birds. My favorite was the black-crowned night heron, the only bird that terrified my parrot. When the heron would land on the lifeline to scout for food in the water, the parrot–usually our raucous watch bird–would retreat to his cage and shrink in the corner. “Heron fish” were plentiful there: we used to watch him spear and gulp at the rate of at least once per three seconds. Here’s a heron on a mudbank along the Hackensack.


Notice the head feather. I was quite surprised when I saw this heron in an urban environment as well. These next two photos were from a dock.


And next. How can it concentrate on fishing or maybe how can the fish concentrate on checking for a stealthy feathered predator on the dock?


By the way, this is an unretouched photo. Camera info is on my about page. A friend reports seeing groups of night herons flying past her 47th floor window on the Upper East Side; she speculates the population along Newark Bay and the Hackensack is the same as the one on the East River and Flushing Bay, less than 10 miles. We commute, and birds are more independently mobile over obstacles like water and natural and artificial cliffs than we are.

And the picture above, hardly as interesting as the night heron, the omnipresent waterbird, the gull juvenile, something I’d never seen until last summer. Living on the abutment of a long gone bridge across the Hackensack, this juvenile only  gull parents could love was being spoiled by two adults bringing it food.

All photos by Will Van Dorp.

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December 2006