As events like this unfold, you try to make sense of what
you are seeing
take place in front of you. With experience in watching their behavior, comes increased understanding of what they are doing. One of the principal questions that came to mind regarding these two was, Which one was the male; the lead bird determining where they were going, or the one following? Unless you see them copulating, there apparently is no way to distinquish a male from a female.
I continued to film them after the pair landed down the shoreline but, at the same time, I was misreading their actions. Almost immediately after landing, the second heron turned to the first and, looking very agitated, began to berate the other one. At least that is what I initially thought was happening. The other one in turn, seemed to give a “scolding” back to the other as good as it was getting. Both had their creasts up, their beaks wide open and the feathers on their necks standing straight out giving them the appearance of being twice as large as normal. Almost like in a sword-fight, one would thrust and the other parry, then it would reverse.
After a minute or so of this behavior, they became very quiet and the feathers smoothed back into place, but they continued to glare silently at one another as if both were fuming over the actions of the other. And that is what I thought I was witnessing; an argument over why the lead bird would so carelessly allow the two of them to come so close to a human being.
The second bird finally turned away and faced the river. The other bird, now behind the first, made some small action (I cannot remember what it did now, but it was barely noticeable) and this caused the other heron to turn around and start the same action all over again. Their hackles were up and they were thrusting back and forth with the bills. At one point, one had all but placed it’s bill inside the others open beak.
The second incident ended just like the first. This time, the second bird moved down to the edge of the water and the other did the same. After a few minutes, they again took to the air and were gone.