Slide Show

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Summer Bird Watching

                                                 Great Blue Heron Tracks

                                                       Summer Bird Watching.

      It was daylight on the water in a quiet back eddy far from the fast current of the main river.  I was bird watching which in the fisherman's dialect of the West End means you're fishing but not catching anything so you may as well watch birds. This is probably the best time of year to fish since it never snows here in the summer. It's probably the worst time of year to bird watch if you have a weak stomach or sensitive nature. That's because this is the time for young birds to try their wings and leave the nest before they are eaten by one of many predators that have their own babies to feed.      Witnessing the attack of two bald eagles on a great blue heron nest must be one of the queasiest sights in nature. The great blue heron must be one of the worst nest builders in the entire bird kingdom. I've seen them nesting in a spindly hemlock that didn't look like it could support one heron never mind a mating pair and half dozen hatchings in a nest made of sticks the size of the bed of a pickup truck. The parents feed their young with revolting regularity on a diet of half-digested fish that is regurgitated into the bottomless craws of the nestlings whose constant squawking seems to advertize the position of the nest to any predators in the neighborhood.

In the air the Great blue herons glide in a slow lumbering flight that seems to take forever to get them anywhere. With their necks majestically folded and their legs hanging back like a rudder they appear easy prey for an eagle.  The only thing the herons have going for them is their exceptional wariness and a long sharp beak that looks like it could poke through a sheet of plywood.  Eagles dive with the speed of well, an eagle with long sharp talons and a beak that can rip through about anything. You wouldn't think a great blue heron would have a chance against an eagle so maybe that's why there is usually a pair of herons on a nest.

All I saw for sure was two eagles chasing one of the herons.  It might have been acting like a decoy to lure them away from the nest. I've watched eagles catch geese, ducks and even a pelican so you'd think a slow flying heron wouldn't stand a chance. Not that I care. Herons are fish eating devils that can spear a foot long trout and choke it down whole in one gulp. If you've ever had trout pond you'd be amazed how little time it takes for the herons to clean out every fish. I figured those eagles would be making the world a better place by eating a heron or two. The lone heron appeared doomed with two eagles closing in fast. There was nowhere for the heron to hide in the wide open sky and I had a ringside seat. Then the heron started spiraling up higher in tight little circles. The eagles were denied their main weapon, where they hit their target with a surprise attack from above. They flapped their wings for all that they were worth but could not catch the heron in its ungainly, ridiculous looking vertical take-off. In the space of a minute the birds were just little specks in the sky. The eagles gave up and glided off in different directions. I sat on a stump stunned by the realization that not even the bird watching was going my way this morning.


No comments:

Post a Comment