Gone Fishin’

During the winter and spring, Dayna and I make frequent trips over to Otter Slough Conservation Area in Stoddard County. It’s about an hour’s drive and we usually stop for breakfast, then spend a leisurely day cruising the area looking for things to photograph. The area has a bird species count of 269, which is in the top three areas of the state. You never know what you’ll see, but the area is particularly good for waterfowl, raptors and large wading birds.

We made an early season trip a couple of weekends ago, mainly looking for raptors since we knew it was too early for waterfowl to be present in any significant numbers. And that was the case—other than a good number of Mallards along with a few Northern Shovelers and Ruddy Ducks, we saw no waterfowl. We did see an adult Bald Eagle and at least a dozen Red-tail Hawks, but they were all rather uncooperative. So we more or less struck out on both raptors and waterfowl.

But there was one Great Blue Heron in the edge of the main pool who was not very spooky and allowed us to slowly pull close. We sat and watched for a while—he was mostly standing in place, not moving around much at all. Then he suddenly went into a more alert state, what I would call a hunting (fishing?) stance.

I could tell he was getting ready to strike, but obviously didn’t know when it would happen, so I just kept watching through the viewfinder and waiting. And waiting. And waiting. And he just held that pose, only moving his head slightly from side to side, apparently getting a bead on something. Finally, his head darted towards the water and I tried my best to press the shutter as soon as I sensed he was moving. But he was so fast and my reaction time so slow that I didn’t get a single “on the way down” shot and by the time I did get the shutter triggered, his head was well underwater.

I was surprised at just how deep he actually went. It looks like everything other than his wings and rear end are under water.

But he didn’t hold that pose for long, probably only a couple of seconds then pulled his head back out of the water.

I couldn’t see that he’d caught anything, but as he stood there, it looked like he was trying to swallow something. I’ve watched Great Blue’s hunt before and any time I’ve seen one catch a fish, even a really small one, they’ve always brought it out of the water crossways in the bill, then flipped it around until it could swallowed head first. And I didn’t see that here, so I’m wondering if he caught something other than a fish, though I’ve also seen them catch crayfish, an amphiuma and a rat and those were all handled basically the same as a fish. Perhaps he missed altogether and got nothing but a mouthful of water that he was trying to clear. I just don’t know. And I don’t like not knowing…

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>