Tidepool Terrific

Too big to swallow, I enjoyed the luxury of fascination with this hungry hunter

Why do I never tire of watching big blue herons busily being big blue herons?

Infinitely versatile, big blues possess so many tools to deal with so many possibilities within an immensely wide range of diet and environment, they are, to me, the Swiss Army Knife of birds.

My emotionometer pegged head-shakingly solid on pure admiration, I watched this prodigious predator assess wind and water conditions in the world around him, formulate a plan of attack, then begin seamlessly to navigate between little pools and big, calm water and rough, sandy bottoms and rocky outcrops where, but for my zoom lens, I could not have begun to follow to capture the footage above.

Having watched this fellow preen in a tree overhanging the ocean before bedtime the previous evening [CLICK TO VIEW], there was no doubt in my mind, early next morning, when I saw him swoop in low over the beach with sea cuisine in mind for breakfast — I knew in a heartbeat that I would be his shadow for the duration of his time that day in the tidepools.

Through observation of many such birds in many places over many years, I’ve found herons to be equally comfortable in salt water or fresh, in fallow fields or ocean surf, in towering trees or tiny backyard koi ponds. I’ve watched them walk, hop, fly, wade — even dive from the sky like an osprey, once — stand more still than stone and run like a starving T-Rex to spear menu items ranging from fish to insects to fat furry rodents, and even other birds. Baby ducklings are a delicacy on a big blue’s menu.

In just this pair of short videos alone, you can see one hungry heron coil, strike, ruffle, scratch, glare, twist, dart, bristle, jump, fly, twist, preen and squawk like a pterodactyl through its endlessly varied “daily routine.” I can find no end to the fascination.

In all sincerity — so fiercely predatory are these birds — I harbor scant illusion that if a big blue heron suspected for a moment that its long, snaking gullet might possibly stretch wide enough to accommodate a lumbering slug like me, I might soon see the piercing yellow eyes of this silent stalker burning ever closer from concealing shadows, evaluating me as a potential meal. Gulp.

So why do I never tire? As long as I remain too big to swallow, I pray never to discover an answer to that question.

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