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Local Sports

August 31, 2012

The heron is the hunter you love to hate

As I head up the on-ramp of Exit 13 to get on Interstate-88, I can see him most every day. There is a great blue heron that feeds in that backwater. Some days he’ll be resting on one of the low-hanging branches. On other occasions, he’ll stand perfectly still, just waiting with the water halfway to his knees.

I have a similar creature that likes to visit my pond on a regular basis. I occasionally see him, but I can see his tracks in the mud along the shore almost every day. That darn bird knows that there’s an abundance of small bass that feed in the shallows and they make a very easy meal.

The blue heron is really an amazing predator. It has the patience of a saint, the aim of a world-class archer and the appetite of a teen-aged boy with two hollow legs at a hotdog-eating contest.

These birds feed or hunt differently than other fish-eating birds. The osprey or eagle flies over open water and dives down to take fish that are near the surface of the river or lake. The blue heron is a wading bird and uses its long legs to work along the shores of ponds and streams.

When a heron feeds, it stands in the water like a statue in the park. He never moves the majority of his body as he waits. The unique thing about the heron is his middle toe. The bird stands there and wiggles his middle toe, making it look like a worm or other small, edible creature in the shallow water.

Small fish are attracted to the movement, thinking they have found an easy meal. It’s an easy meal all right, except they are the main course. The heron quickly jabs its long, sharp bill into the water and spears the unsuspecting fish, which is then swallowed whole.

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