My first morning in Florida gave me many delightful surprises and some charming new acquaintances. I had been wandering through a fascinating old hammock admiring the picturesque live oaks, with their festoons of Spanish moss, the stately cabbage palmettos, so suggestive of the Tropics, and here and there a Spanish bayonet in full bloom, shedding its fragrance from a pyramid of white blossoms; the thickets of saw palmettos, the various orchids and air plants on the old trees were all new and interesting to me. Finally I came to a palmettos to watch a little flock of yellowlegs feeding in the pool. A passing shadow caused me to look up and there on silent wings a larger bird was sailing down to alight in the pool, my first glimpse of a Louisiana heron at short range. Soon another came and then another, until there were five of them. What beautiful, dainty creatures they were, their slender forms clothed in bluish gray, blended drabs, purples, and white, with their little white plumes as a nuptial head dress. How agile and graceful they were as they darted about in pursuit of their prey. With what elegance and yet with what precision every movement was made. For harmony in colors and for grace in motion this little heron has few rivals. I could have watched and admired them for hours, but the rattle of a dry leaf, as I moved, ended my reverie, for they were gone. But I shall never forget my first impression of this elegant “lady of the waters.”
Excerpted from Life Histories of North American Marsh Birds, published in 1926.