Prospect Park, 7/22/2020
In this morning’s sweltering heat, Toby needed the brace under his rear legs (he’s losing his nerves’ connection to them, painlessly but untreatably) and couldn’t walk very far, so I had him sit in the shade just off the path, hitched to a fence post, while I walked down to the edge of the Lullwater and photographed black-crowned night herons. There were two this morning, hunting in their immobile way from separate logs. I photographed one of them looking quizzical, but it didn’t seem as though either was going to strike any time soon, so I decided it was a dud of a morning, took a sour photograph of a beer bottle poking up Excalibur-like from the toxic green algae (not pictured), and then fetching Toby, headed down the sidewalk toward home. Only to find the way blocked, by park workers doing some kind of construction. Runners were ignoring the workers’ instructions not to pass through, but defiance wasn’t possible if one was half-carrying a hobbling dog, so we turned back. I decided to take the check as a sign to try again with the herons. After parking Toby again in his spot, I crouched by the water’s edge and waited. Nothing happened. And then more nothing. And then suddenly something large thrashed terrifyingly in the water right in front of me and when the thrashing abruptly ceased, a gigantic frog was sitting on a log a few feet away.
In a panic, I clicked the shutter—but as it turned out, the frog was still going to be lying there, motionless except for a trembly patch in the skin behind its mouth that betrayed its breathing, when I left twenty minutes later. The above is an uncropped photograph of the frog, for the record. After taking a Blow-Up session’s worth of pictures of it, I glanced over at the herons, and noticed that the younger one had arched his neck, in anticipation of striking at a fish—and suddenly he did strike, seizing a fish in his beak.
He flew with it into a tree across the water, to swallow it at his leisure. I stayed a little longer, because none of my photos of his triumph were altogether right—the above is the only one more or less in focus—and I sensed that the older heron wanted his innings, too. A few minutes later, he arched his neck and then struck—but he whiffed, and so my photo is of his ruffled rump at the indecisive moment.