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The Setting

South Berwick, ME & Portsmouth, NH region.
area of about 14.5 x 13 miles
Jewett's family home is in the center of the village of South Berwick.
The yellow region just northeast of the village is where locals believe the Jane Morrison film of "A White Heron" was shot.
The yellow region north of old York village is more like the setting of the story text.

 
 

Looking down the Salmon Falls river in the direction of Newington,
from Hamilton House in South Berwick.

The great local geographical fact of Jewett's South Berwick is this tidal river which connected a somewhat remote village to the economic and social life of the port of Portsmouth, NH.  To the left is Maine, to the right, New Hampshire.





View inland from salt marsh near York, Maine.

Judging from the landscape description in "A White Heron," the story takes place in a woodland like that visible beyond the marsh.  One needs to imagine a landmark pine shooting up above the tree-line to complete the picture.




From a 2003 Maine Wall Calendar

This photo by Ed Elvidge shows something like what Sylvy could have seen from atop her pine tree.  We need to imagine the signs of cultivation and habitation out of the picture.


The three hills of Agamenticus

Seen from the look-out tower at Dover, NH, this shows the countryside between Dover, NH and Mt. Agamenticus in Maine.  On the left of the the nearer & higher hill, near the horizon, is the farm where South Berwick locals believe Jane Morrison shot her film.



 The white heron or snowy egret

In Audubon Birds of America, Roger Tory Peterson describes the snowy egret as "the heron with the golden slippers," and notes that it is the symbol of the National Audubon Society. Peterson says:

"At the beginning of this century the little snowy, loveliest of all American herons, was on the way out. Its exquisite plumes, called `aigrettes' by the trade, were worth $32 an ounce, twice their weight in gold. Every heronry was ferreted out and destroyed. As the birds bore these nuptial sprays only at nesting time, the young birds, bereaved of their parents, perished too, and the stench of death hung over every colony. Where there had been hundreds of thousands of egrets in our southern states there soon remained but a few hundred.... Under protection . . . Today snowies by the scores of thousands now nest north to the Great Lakes and southern New England."



Snowy egret or white heron (leucophoyx thula),





Photos copyright Peter Wickham, Coe College
1997



Great White Heron
While it seems likely that the reference in the text to "the little white heron" and its rarity in Maine identifies Sylvy's bird as a snowy egret, the great white heron is more common in New England.  The following photos by Nancy Wetzel show a great white heron on Drakes Island, near Wells, Maine.




Photographs copyright 2013 by Nancy Wetzel.


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