The Heron Count

Bill leaned over the side of the small outboard boat. It rocked and bobbed in the gentle swells near the rocky island. He could see the large rocks below in the shifting light beneath the waves.

He stuck his hand in the warm water and waved it absently; the liquid swirled around his fingers. He indolently watched his friend Brian put binoculars to his eyes.

"Dad," said Brian, "can you see any chicks?"

Dad sat in the boat's driver's seat and made quick glances with his binoculars at the tops of the pines which covered the small island. He didn't want the craft to get too close to the rocks near the sanctuary. They could damage the boat's hull, and people were not permitted on the island.

In the upper branches of the pines were nests made of sticks jutting out at every angle. Blue-gray heads on long necks looked out.

"Yup," said Dad. "I can see the head of at least one chick looking down in this direction."

"How can you see anything from here, even with binoculars?" asked Bill without looking up.

Just then a large heron flew in over the water. One of the other birds let out a loud croaking call that sounded like a duck being strangled. The bird's head rested on its shoulders while its long legs trailed out behind. Bill jumped and suddenly looked up.

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