A Hunting Great Blue Heron

Nature Studies

Despite a night of rain, my morning dawned bright. Admiring the scene out my window, I was delighted to look in our field and see Harold had come for a visit.

Harold is the name we’ve given the Great Blue Heron that frequents our field after a rain. We’ve debated if he’s hunting frogs or gophers. Given the abundant rodent mounds, I am always hopeful his taste leans toward gopher.

Although we’ve witnessed Harold hunt on many occasions, he usually prefers the area of the field farthest from our house. Anytime we’ve tried to get close, he’s been spooked away. This day was different. He was strolling just outside what was left of our vegetable garden.

Armed with my camera I was greeted by a deceptive crisp fall chill. Harold watched me walk slowly across my yard. Fall leaves under my feet made it impossible to move with any stealth.

Stopping at the edge of the yard, Harold seemed at ease with my presence. In fact, he seemed to strut about the area as if posing for a photoshoot.

Great Blue Heron

It wasn’t long before Harold began hunting. Remaining perfectly still, he stared at the ground. Had I not been in close proximity, I would have abandoned my observations. We’ve witnessed Harold’s hunting efforts in the past, and his patience outweighs my own.

Great Blue Heron

Harold’s efforts paid off. I have to warn you, the following images are not for the faint of heart.

Great Blue Heron

Two of my children had joined me at the yard’s edge. Although my son quickly declared the event awesome, my daughter’s take was a bit different. She wrinkled her nose, insisted it was disgusting, and yet could not seem to look away.Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

I am thrilled to learn Harold is helping with our overpopulated gopher problem. I am even intrigued by the opportunity to have observed him hunting down and consuming his breakfast. I probably could have done without my son’s narration, “that is so awesome, you can see it bulging in his neck where he swallowed it whole!!”

Great Blue Heron

Harold’s visit to our field is a great reminder to get our winter bird feeders cleaned and ready. Winter is a wonderful time to teach children to identify different species. Bird population decreases during winter migration, allowing children to more easily name the quickly moving creatures.

Regardless if you have a field for a hunting Great Blue Heron, or a back porch to hang a small bird feeder, bird watching is a wonderful pastime. Once you get started, it will surely become an addictive hobby.

Despite my son’s graphic narration, I have to admit, watching a Great Blue Heron hunt and consume its prey was pretty cool. It’s definitely time for more backyard bird watching!

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