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I'm a woman entering "the third chapter" and fascinated by the journey.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Elegant but deadly

This morning brought the opportunity for a quick jaunt along the walkway at the Williamstown Wetland, a jaunt that revealed what may be the apex predator of the park: the great blue heron. Everything about this bird is geared toward killing.

Large as it is, the great blue can almost disappear when still, its muted colors blending with those of the reflected vegetation.
With that long neck, it can reach underwater at speeds too great for most fish to escape, and that long bill can impale even small mammals.

This particular heron caught at least three fish in the few minutes that I observed it, and the wetland's other birds stayed well away from the heron's hunting spot. (I do understand that alligators sometimes eat herons, but reptiles of that size are blessedly rare in West Virginia.)

Watching a great blue as it goes about its deadly business, it is easy to see this elegant creature as the descendant of dinosaurs. It would not have surprised me to see a velociraptor rise out of the swamp grasses--except that dinosaurs are in short supply in the parking lots of local restaurants like the one adjoining our primeval-looking wetland.


David said...

I've always loved the look of the great blue heron...but your post makes me see the other side of its nature--actually, since its body is adapted to hunt as it does, that predatory nature is what gives it its beauty. I've yet to see it hunting in action.

Although I'd hate to lose some (or all?) of my pond's frogs, I'd love to see a blue heron. Perhaps when I create the lower, larger pond, I will finally attract one. Up until now, I've seen them flying over the floodplain that is below our property (and beyond that a large stream). If I ever do attract one, I fear it will stab and puncture the liner I will use to create the pond and wetland.

Thanks for a great post.

Rebecca said...

I'd not thought about herons as a danger to pond liners but can imagine that they would be.
The birds are common here. A friend who lives in a dense neighborhood close to downtown had to install netting over her pond because a heron had discovered her goldfish!

David said...

I have mixed feelings about attracting them here...but mostly, I'd love it. Mostly, I just fear that the pond would drain if it were punctured.