Over the past few years, a project has been underway at the intersections of Lincoln Drive, Wissahickon Avenue, and Rittenhouse Street to convert the 3-acre grassy island of Saylor's Grove into a wetland to catch stormwater runoff. I learned about this project around the time we moved, I think, and we began our periodic walks there just as they were installing bridges and new walkways. There was clearly a wet area, with some trees in and around it, but not much was growing yet. And then there came a sign.
The sign was an information sign, and it is there still. It stands upon a sort of observation deck with low stone walls around it that we like to walk on top of. The sign tells us about various types of plant and animal life that we are likely to see in the marshy pond in front of us. When I first saw it, it reminded me of those little self-guided tour signs you see in the woods that say "Look! A spiderweb!" Wait, where?
So we laughed at the sign, which clearly listed lots of things that were nowhere in sight. The most egregious of these, in our opinion, was the heron. Huge big bird, out in the middle of this open pond, surrounded by city traffic? It was particularly funny since the sign advised us to look carefully, as the animals might not want to be seen.
So from then on, we announced our intention to visit Saylor's Grove by saying, "Let's go see the herons!" And each time, as the wetland grew up around us, we made dramatic efforts to look carefully and find the elusive heron. We saw goldfinches eating from long stalks of seeds. We saw cattails and crabapples and water pouring over stones. But no heron. On our last visit there in May, I wrote in my diary, "We visited Saylor's Grove and found, not herons, but more orioles, plus sparrows and mallards and huge stands of blue flag irises."
Then came last weekend. I'd been agitating for a walk all week, since the weather was so much cooler, and finally on Saturday afternoon as we drove by the grove (which we do frequently, always checking for herons) and I saw hosts of yellow flowers dotting the hills, I demanded that we go see the the herons Sunday morning.
Sunday was a tricky cranky day. It was past noon and raining by the time we got ourselves out the door. We made our way to the wetland and were astonished at how much had changed over the summer. From the sidewalk we didn't see any sign of animal life except someone talking on a cell phone under a tree. We walked down the long path toward the deck, and as the guy walked out past us, he murmured in an awestruck voice, "There's a heron in there." Then he added, "I saw it an hour ago." And he left. Well, so then we did the requisite self-recriminations for not having left when we intended, but soon we quieted and began to make our way slowly and carefully around the tall grasses that cloaked the pond. And halfway around, there it was!
We were very excited. We followed it around, which was not very polite. Eventually it took off and flew over to the Monoshone on the other side of the road (which is contiguous with the rest of the park). Next time maybe not so much stalking and not so much the bright red umbrella.
We're so excited!!!