Seven years ago on this very canal, Graham warned me as I sat in the cockpit of Manatee, camera poised, that I’d never get a shot of a blue heron standing in the grass. “They always move off as we draw abeam of them” he said and generally they do, but every now and then, usually when the light or background is wrong, or there’s a tree in blocking the shot, they don’t.
I spent two months back then stalking the blighters, failing entirely to get a single photograph as they set sail at precisely the moment they came into camera range. The odd thing is that they don’t seem to be afraid of or escaping from us. It all just looks like a spur of the moment decision. Sure their eyes aren’t far apart, leaving precious little space for brain material, but they seem to just get the urge to fly off, always across the canal in front of us, then as suddenly as they have left, they get the urge to stop, swerve back and land a few hundred metres upstream on the same side of the bank, in the same position they were in relative to us, before they took off.
Every now and then the urge to fly does seem to leave them, and they settle for a bit, giving me half a chance to hold the camera one-handed and one-eyed while managing the boat with my remaining appendages and eye.
Some days whatever it is that induces this behaviour in them seems to rub off on us. It’s hard to know why, but when a certain switch clicks there’s no use fighting the feeling, the only response that works is to cast off our moorings and flit away.
This feeling rarely lasts for a terribly long time though, so often, today for instance, having got ourselves off to an early start we change our minds after a late smoko, and by the time Paray-les-Monial loomed on our horizon, we’d been on the go for almost four hours.
We may have to rest here for a couple of days now, so I suppose if there is anyone who wants to take a photograph of us, now would be a good time.