After a night of rain, the morning had the color and tone of a Great Blue Heron’s back. In the afternoon the sky brightened, and I went to look for the bird. There are places were I expect to see them as I drive the highways along the river. Great Blue Herons are part of my image of the Colorado River.
At my first stop three men fished, but there were no Great Blue Herons or any other birds to be seen. I could hear birds in the cottonwoods down the river, but that was private property protected by three no trespassing signs and one private property sign at the gate and another sign just inside the gate stating again the private property and warning me to stay out. I walked up hill along the fence. Finally, a ‘SKEWW’ and I saw a Red-Shafted Flicker working a shaley hillside inside the fence. I crossed the hills to a cinder-covered slope and a gulley, down which were strewn rusted tin cans, a desk drawer, and stretch of steel cable. A former dump? The entire area had a beaten look.
Upriver a few miles, I stopped among the hills where I could park near the river’s line of cottonwoods. The bright yellow leaves of the cottonwood fell—solely mostly, one and then another—falling, clapping against other leaves, floating out, arcing back, down, falling. The leaves that remained on the trees offered in the breeze a constant, quiet applause. A Golden Eagle circled slowly over the river bluffs. Little brown birds flitted in the tamarisk.
I pushed through the thicket of tamarisk and coyote olives toward the river, picking-up a coat of burs. A shattered tamarisk covered me in brief, golden brown camouflage, but it wasn’t sufficient; as I stepped over the final bank to the gravelly beach, a Great Blue Heron lifted from the water and flew up river. I had only a glance of the long beak and slate back before it was gone.