Tag Archives: raccoon

Great Blue Heron

Wouldn’t it be nice if all birds could be friends? But that’s not how it is in nature. Crows rob the nests of songbirds, cowbirds lay eggs in the nests of other birds and then fly off, knowing the surrogate mother will bring up the cowbird baby that will crowd out the original nestlings. Owls and hawks will kill other smaller birds. “World bird peace” is pretty much hopeless.

Two of the larger birds, great blue herons and bald eagles, live side by side on the west coast of British Columbia. You rarely see bald eagles killing a heron, but it does happen. Turkey vultures, crows, ravens, black bears, and raccoons are all nest robbers that will clean out a heron’s nest. Eagles will do the same but they also predate on great blue herons in every stage of the heron’s life. The eagle has great grasping talons and a beak made for tearing flesh, so what chance does a heron have?

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Photo, courtesy of Ken Thorne.

Many years ago, I saw how herons escape from eagles. While living on the Queen Charlotte Islands, I was standing in my backyard one day when I heard the croaking call of a heron in a tall tree nearby. An eagle flew in and the heron lifted off. I thought the heron would fly away as the eagle went after him, but instead, the heron reached up with both of his wide-spread wings and pumped air downwards. He flew higher and higher in a tight circle going almost straight up.

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The eagle also pumped his wings and pursued the heron, circling higher and higher after him. The heron went so high that he was a mere speck in the sky. Many meters below him, the eagle soared in circles but was no longer gaining in altitude. I think he had gone as high as he was able. The two birds circled at their respective heights for several minutes, and at last the eagle gave up and flew away. The heron came down after a while, to go about his business for another day.

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The great blue heron is the ultimate stalker. He is patient beyond belief, and will stand absolutely still for so long that you might wonder if he is alive. Then he moves one leg up out of the water and hesitates. After a moment he puts the leg down, just a little closer to the fish or frog he is stalking. His folded up neck reminds me of a boxer holding his fist close to his chest, ready to fling out his arm to throw a punch at the right second. The heron’s sharp grabbing beak is his weapon for securing his dinner. His patience usually pays off and he scores a snack for his dinner.

I saw this fellow today at the shore below my house. I also took the picture of the eagle soaring over the trees beside my house today.  I sure hope these two can keep out of each other’s way and both settle for a meal of fish instead.

Who Goes There?

001The snow hangs onto branches like popcorn balls, but the sun is coming out and the snow must go. But before the serious melting began Sherlock Holmes discovered some interesting evidence at the beach.

??????????It seems that this beach was a very busy place overnight and the snow held onto the evidence long enough for a few photos by Mrs. Holmes.

Small creatures walked across the snow. Some kind of bird investigated the freshly exposed rocks and weeds.

??????????Checking out the seafood smorgasbord was a raccoon.

??????????Someone’s dog had gone for a run along the beach, too.

??????????A deer had gone by but the sun was already melting its print.

??????????But what could have made these large prints? We put a toonie in them to show the size. I measured the toonie, and it is about 1 and 1/8 inch in diameter, so the print had to be at least three inches across and a bit longer than that.

cougar [2] ??????????Any ideas? I have my suspicions, but I wonder if we have any tracking experts out there who might verify them. Seriously, it’s not a joke print that we made up. Could it be a cougar track? They’ve been known to walk along the beach to get out of the deep snow.

The snow will be gone in a jiffy. Two Canada geese flew over on their way to tell their friends that spring is on its way at last.

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