Water leaked out of the cliff forming a irrigation waterfall from the alfalfa, potato, and corn fields north of Hagerman. The photographers pushed off from the shore in a long boat headed toward the island in the middle of the Snake River.
The mayflies rose up in the spring sun darting around the passengers. A single fly landed on Tom’s cheek. He brushed it away in a casual sweep. He pulled his green hat down as the boat skied across the water.
A few yards from the island the boat slowed. On its starboard, a group of nesting grebes rested in the water lilies. The birds dipped below the water in an uncomfortable dance of avoiding the boat and protecting their nests. Tom lined up the birds taking closeups of the water nests with his Nikon. The boat slid across the water with the current. Soon, it reached the island and the passengers climbed onto the shore.
The island covered in cottonwoods seemed primordial. Wisps of grass hung from the bottom of the trees. The air carried a distinctive muddy smell. And then the prize; hidden among the trees hundreds of Great Blue Herons made their nests.
Each bird stood stoic among the lower branches hidden as sticks. Their eyes bubbled out from their beaks. But otherwise, they stood still.
The photographers took time to capture each bird. They stood silent too. Tom framed up the hidden bird until the light lit up only its face between the limbs. He slowly squeezed down on the shutter. The film advanced through the camera and the bird shuddered. Tom felt the shudder and let out his breath. Then the melancholy of the birds became too great. Tom gathered up his camera and walked to the boat. He took a last look back at the island, then the boat slid back across the water toward the far shore.