Life at the River Crossing

I’ve become fond of an egret that fishes from a low bridge over the Medina River, not far from my house. He (or she, who knows?) likes to perch on the edge and watch for fish as they pop out from under the bridge. I’m no egret, but I bet fish can be caught by surprise that way.

The egret has a great blue heron fishing buddy. The heron fishes by wading in the river so the two of them usually go about their business without bothering one another. I suppose they compare catches and tell fish stories later, after their hard days at the office.

Sharing the river on a misty January morning.

I’ve watched these two for enough years that it’s possible I’ve seen several generations pass by. If so, the parents taught the children well. The egret continues to fish from the bridge most of the time and the heron fishes from the river. If the water level in the Medina gets so low that the flow under the bridge shallows out the egret joins the heron in the river. Other times the egret just seems to want a change and fishes near the shore. The birds seem equally comfortable fishing on opposite sides of the bridge or shoulder to shoulder.

Those two birds, or their descendants, have made it through a lot of changes in the 18 years I’ve crossed that bridge. Traffic has increased but the egret doesn’t flinch when cars go by. The biggest change came when parking was severely curtailed. River crossings in our area had started to become crowded on hot summer days so parking near the crossings was made difficult. It’s rare to see anyone cooling off in the river these days. The birds didn’t seem to care about the crowds, but they don’t seem to miss them either.

Downriver from the bridge, where it sometimes got crowded.

That egret and heron are the desktop photo on my notebook computer. An old photo looking upriver from below the bridge is on another computer. It would be harder to take those photos now. The parking restrictions have complicated all river access, not just big summer crowds. I might not want some of the photos now, anyway. Someone has attached a huge “No Trespassing” sign to the signature boulder and sullied the view.

That sign is bolted to the boulder.

I’ve heard that the bridge is scheduled for replacement. I can understand why that would be a good thing. The existing bridge is a glorified low water crossing, and if I had to cross the bridge to take the quick way home I’d hate to make the long detour when high water closes it. But I’ll miss that old bridge.

I hope the egret and heron make it through the change. They’ve handled a lot together. I’m betting the egret will figure out another good way to fish when there’s a new bridge. He got fishing from that old, low bridge down to a science.

(A previous version of this story was posted in The Bandera Prophet.)

4 thoughts on “Life at the River Crossing

  1. shoreacres

    That second shot is beautiful. I found a few crossings still open access on the Guadalupe during my last visit, but the Medina’s almost totally closed: at least, between Kerrville and Medina. I’m of a divided mind. On the one hand, I understand why increasingly large crowds of people — and their trash — would be quite an incentive to put up fences and signs. On the other hand… Well, at least no one’s found a way to keep the heron and egret away.

    I don’t know about egrets, but great blue herons are long-lived, and ten to fifteen years isn’t uncommon. Maybe that’s Gramps out there in the water. Or, perhaps your current heron bought the water rights from a previous bird who decided to move to the city.

    1. Charles Prokop Post author

      I share your ambivalence about the crossing issue. The crossing in the post is on my way to and from the golf course and I’ve seen it really crowded on a hot Saturday. On the other hand, the crowds didn’t seem to be causing a real problem. I guess I’d feel differently if I lived near the crossing and had to deal with it whenever I left home or returned. The crowding here wasn’t a real problem until the authorities started clamping down in more well known river areas, such as New Braunfels. When that part of the balloon got squeezed the air had to go somewhere, and it came our way.

  2. Penny Bateman

    Hi Charlie,
    I am thoroughly enjoying your “noodling” here on your Dry Creek Hill website. I can tell you and Loretta take great pride in your beautiful place in the woods. It’s obvious you both appreciate and embrace the many aspects of joy its nature and critters bring you.
    I’ve already read all of your Feral Friday posts (crazy cat person here), and I’d love to read more about your feral cat colony. So, if you wouldn’t mind sending me the pdf of your book, I will look forward to meeting and getting to know more of your feline friends.
    Thanks very much Charlie.

    1. Charles Prokop Post author

      It’s good to hear from you, Penny. We do really like it up here, although we sometimes wonder what we’ve got ourselves into with all the projects that keep popping up. I’ll get the PDF out to you in short order.

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