Sunday, September 11, 2011

spearing a minnow

spearing a minnow
a great blue heron flaps up
to a treetop perch

Nearing another bend in the Oneota River, we spot a great blue heron as it lifts off from the water where it has been wading on its long legs. Croaking in alarm, it spreads its wide wings and slowly flaps up to the top of a tall cottonwood. There it stretches its slender body and neck to its full height to watch us warily as we drift by in our canoes, paddles silent. The primary food of the great blue heron is fish, though it will also snap up anything else that comes within spearing distance of its long sharp beak, including insects, turtles, frogs, snakes, mice and small birds. The heron locates its prey with its keen yellow eyes and usually swallows it whole. Being an opportunistic forager may not always pay off, as the bird has been known to choke on prey that is too large to swallow. The large adult bird has few predators, but the bald eagle is one of them, and we are seeing many eagles on this stretch of the river.

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