Last year I donated a couple of prints to University of Ilinois Wildlife Medical Clinic's annual fundraising auction Doodle for Wildlife. University of Illinois is where I got my B.F.A., and I generally make my way back down to Champaign-Urbana once or twice a year. This year for the auction I am donating an original watercolor of a Black-crowned Night-Heron.
The first couple of years of living in Chicago after graduating from U of I, my husband Jay and I would often take late night bike rides downtown along the lake shore. It was a great way to spend summer nights. We almost always ended up at museum campus where the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium are located. We'd ride to the outer sidewalks surrounding the Shedd and planetarium, and get a great view of the city skyline. One night we rode to the outer, lakeside edge of the planetarium, and were startled to see about 8 Black-crowned Night-Herons sitting in a line along the stony rim. They were looking out in to the blackness of the lake, and didn't seem too disturbed by our being there. We watched silently and then got back on our bikes and rode home.
It is one of those moments that even now, 10 years later, for which I am grateful. I loved living in a big city like Chicago, but sometimes it was overwhelming. Riding to and along the lake provided a chance for some open space, and to reconnect with nature. Happening upon a group of ethereal looking herons, provided a moment of silent communion between two very different species; each trying to cope with the big city in their own way.
Black-crowned Night-Herons are (surprise!) nocturnal, and gregarious in nature. They are colonial breeders that favor swamps and island habitat. While widespread in North America, they can be found on every continent except Antarctica and Australia.