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Heronarama and a Science Chimp Mystery

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Oh did I have fun with the herons of North Bend on my late July canoe trip. Great blues are everywhere, croaking and flapping prehistorically off when disturbed. This one is in some pretty impressive molt. Look how the fresh new dark slate feathers are replacing the worn and tired pale gray flight feathers. I'm not sure, but this may be an immature bird. Anyone?


But the real star of the show was this adult green heron, in glorious plumage and condition, who was hunting hard, probably to feed a hungry brood. Green herons breed much, much later in the season than do great blues, who start nesting in March and April in Ohio. 


The deep chestnut neck, the glossy dark-green back, the lanceolate(rather than rounded) lesser wing coverts, bright orange-yellow legs and clean white double streak on the neck underside all point to this being an adult bird. 


Lesser wing coverts lift up, functioning as flaps as the bird brakes to a landing.


It steps quietly along through the shallows, looking for minnows, dragonflies and bluegills. Toward the end of its photoshoot, it stabbed a 3" bluegill and gulped it right down.


I keep watching green herons whenever I can, hoping one will use bait to fish with. There's a video of a bait-fishing green heron that a lot of people have sent me on Facebook. Yep, they do it! At fish farms, they learn to get fish food pellets from dispensers, drop them in the water and wait for lunch to rise up to get them.  In the wild, they'll use a small twig or leaf, drop it in the water, and wait for curious fish to come.

This bird was getting food the old-fashioned way, though, by hunting. The water was so scummy and covered with algae that he couldn't have used bait anyway.


I would hate to be a minnow under that gaze.



It was divine to be ignored by this gorgeous little heron, to watch it going about its business and fishing successfully. I love love love birding and photographing from my Wee Lassie canoe, Lois.


I love it because everyone ignores me and goes about their birdy bidness. In this case, processing a large cicada.

Browsing in the underbrush--a second buck in velvet.


Or just lighting up the shore with beauty: swamp rose mallow. Native, lovely, showy, ahhhh.


It wouldn't be a North Bend outing without at least one myskery. David saw this object high in a broken snag. "Is that an EGG?"

I paddled closer, burning with curiosity. "Yes! It's an egg!"


Now, there's only one kind of egg that could be, being almost the size of a hen's egg, and that would be a wood duck. I figured out what was going on by noting that it looked like the snag had cracked in half, exposing the heretofore closed cavity. Unhatched, broken or addled eggs are often left in the bottom when the ducklings depart. And the black mulch? Well, having examined a number of cavity nests in downed snags, I'd say that mulch is made up of organic matter, including but not limited to sawdust, feces, other unhatched eggs (see the one a few inches below the top one?), and dead birds. See the bird bone sticking  out of the mulch? Eeew! and EEEEE!! Science Chimp heaven!


We're looking at years, maybe a decade or more, of accumulation of organic matter. I wanted to get in there and tear through that mulch lookin' for other clues, but it was too high for me to reach, even with overarm brachiation.


Image shamelessly nicked off randalrauser.com, who, the Net being what it is, could have stolen it too.

If canoeing North Bend  with me, trying to figure out what's in dead duck mulch sounds like something you'd like to do, there are still some spaces left in the Bird Watcher's Digest Reader Rendezvous coming up August 22-24, 2014.

Check it out here: Birding Valhalla With Julie Zickefoose

3 comments:

A huge old oak at Cattus Island, NJ split during Hurricane Sandy, revealing a fifteen foot high chamber, filled with organic matter, including a string of snapping turtle tail verts. I also remember finding a hollow chamber surprisingly close to the ground that contained the entire skeleton of a small owl. There are mysteries out there for those who go looking.

Julie,
You've got to paint that green heron.

Lovely green heron photos!!! Yesterday on a bike ride thru a local urban park, was treated to sighting of 3 bucks in velvet. Yay!!! Thanks for sharing your outing. Linda

Posted by Anonymous August 3, 2014 at 4:32 PM
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