When It’s Snake for Supper

 

Because of its size, a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) is easy to spot, even at a distance. When I noticed this one standing in the middle of a salt flat at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge, I knew it was well beyond the reach of my camera, but I was interested in the ‘something’ it was shaking with its bill. Assuming it was a large fish, I took a closer look through my camera’s lens, and discovered the heron was dealing with a snake.

At that point, the snake seemed to be in charge, but after a few minutes of tussling it unwrapped itself and dropped to the ground. Clearly still interested, the heron took only seconds to re-enage with the reptile.

After a quick stab toward the ground, he had the snake by the tail: a situation the snake seemed to be evaluating as it raised its head for a better look at its opponent.

After getting a better grip on the situation, the heron paused, then lifted off and flew deeper into the flats, the snake still dangling from its bill. I felt some sympathy for the beautiful (as yet unidentified) snake, but was pleased that I’d been able to witness the sight. I presume that, in time, the heron overcame the snake, and enjoyed an unexpected treat for its supper.

 

Comments always are welcome.

The Importance of Names – The Birds

Osprey ~ Wikipedia

 

Oh, large brown, thickly feathered creature
with a distinctive white head,
you, perched on the top branch
of a tree near the lake shore,
as soon as I guide this boat back to the dock
and walk up the grassy path to the house,
before I unzip my windbreaker
and lift the binoculars from around my neck,
before I wash the gasoline from my hands,
before I tell anyone I’m back,
and before I hang the ignition key on its nail,
or pour myself a drink—
I’m thinking a vodka soda with lemon—
I will look you up in my
illustrated guide to North American birds
and I promise I will learn what you are called.
                           “Osprey” ~ Billy Collins

 

Comments always are welcome.
Image courtesy Wikipedia. For more about poet Billy Collins, please click here.

Barefootin’ Into Summer

This Aardman Animation of Robert Parker’s classic song
is filled with delightful visual puns ~ can you find them?

Dry sand, asphalt, concrete, and teak decks are baking in our current August-like temperatures, making one of summer’s greatest pleasures — barefootin’ — a sometimes painful proposition.

But at the water’s edge, barefootin’ birds have taken Robert Parker’s soulful advice; they may not have shoes to kick off, but they’re on their feet, dancing into summer despite the heat. Scroll through the photos while listening to the song, and tell me they’re not!

Kildeer (Charadrius vociferus)
Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea)
Black-bellied Whistling Ducks (Dendrocygna autumnalis)
Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus)
White Ibis (Eudocimus albus)
Laughing Gull (Leucophaeus atricilla)

 

Comments always are welcome.

A Big Bird, Helping Endangered Birds

During a visit to the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge last fall, I was surprised to see a small plane passing repeatedly over areas of the prairie. Its color — yellow — is one I usually associate with crop dusters, but I couldn’t imagine dusting refuge prairies with herbicides. Mosquito-spraying was my next guess, but there was no one around to ask, so I went on my way.

Early yesterday morning, I happened to be in the neighborhood, and took time for a quick drive around the auto loop. While I was busy stalking a Crested Caracara on the road, a low hum in the distance made me look up. It was the same yellow airplane, and a quick change of camera settings allowed me to catch an image of it.

I had been headed out of the refuge at the time, but curiosity demanded that I turn around, go back to the refuge headquarters, and look for an answer. The visitor center has been closed for months, but eventually a ranger spotted me nosing around the outbuildings, and came to see what I was up to. Her explanation of the work being done by the plane was both fascinating and wonderful.

The plane wasn’t spraying; it was dropping fire ant bait. [NOTE: after talking with a refuge employee this morning, I learned that the product being used is called Extinguish Plus, and it’s commercially available.] Fire ants are immensely annoying to humans, but they’re lethal to hatchlings. The young woman explained that, since the bait-dropping project began, the number of other insects on the prairie has increased, and so has the number of ground-dwelling birds. I didn’t see any of the prairie chickens during my visit, but an exceptionally large covey of quail crossed in front of me on Sunday: a visible token of the project’s success.

 

Comments always are welcome.