After descending from Carrauntoohil, Ireland's highest mountain, we visited a farm that had been willed to one of my companions. As we approached the gate, a grey heron took to wing from a pond not twenty yards away -- neck crooked, head feathers flying like pennants, toes trailing in the still, black water of the pond.
If I have a totemic animal , this is it (as readers of my books will know). The heave of wings! The blazing eye! The pterodactylian beak! The effect was positively prehistoric -- one might as well have been standing in Jurassic Park. As the great balsa-light bird lifted into the air its six-foot wings spanned continents, their ponderous beats marked eons of geologic time.