It was a rainy night. I woke a couple of times to the gentle drizzle outside. I rather enjoyed the soft melody of nature, and seemed to sleep a little deeper as I went back to my slumber.
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.
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.
Two of my children had joined me at the yard’s edge. Although my son quickly declared the event awesome, my daughters take was a bit different. She wrinkled her nose, insisted it was disgusting, and yet could not seem to look away.
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!!”
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. It’s also a time to participate in The Great Backyard Bird Count and Project FeederWatch.
If you’re a new birder, a field guide specific to your area will help determine what species to expect. Living in a rural area, we attract both song and field birds. I fill my feeders with a mix of chicken scratch and black oil sunflower seed. It’s affordable and draws many of our area birds. Cornell Ornithology is a great resource for other seed options and answers to birding questions.
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!