Sunday, August 21, 2016

Great Egret/Great Blue Heron

With all the grace and balance of a ballerina, a beautiful Great Egret visits Villa Grove Park in Mequon, WI. The green mudflats of the Milwaukee River provide a soft landing pad and plenty of food opportunities.

Egrets are large wading birds with long legs and a wide foot print. They thrive on aquatic animals...mainly fish.

Their method of hunting is to remain still and wait for prey to come to them.

Their survival is a success story for the bird conservation movement. Great Egrets were hunted to near extinction a hundred years ago for feather adornments on ladies' hats. They recovered beautifully after federal protection for the birds was enacted in the early twentieth century.

Great Egrets are beautiful by nature, but it takes some work to keep up appearances.

Much time is spent on cleaning and straightening, as you might expect for a white bird living in a muddy environment.

A close relative to the Great Egret is the Great Blue Heron...they're both herons. At home in the water as well as the trees Great Blue Herons share the same dagger-like bill used to stab or grasp prey.

Proudly displaying the last of this season's breeding plumage, a Great Blue Heron shares this bend in the river with the Great Egret.

With a seven foot wingspan, the Great Blue Heron is the larger of the two birds.

With stealth and patience they get their prey by a slow and steady advance and a final strike.

Time passes quickly in the presence of these beautiful birds. You do not control the time they allow you.  Enjoy the time they grant you.

Credits: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Green Heron with Frog

Startled by a perceived threat, a Green Heron comes to attention...crest raised...eyes fixed.
It's 11a.m. on the Milwaukee River in Mequon, WI.

A real threat didn't materialize so all is quiet again...crest lowered.

It's back to searching for food on the lily pad covered river.

(Click any picture to enlarge all.)

This bite-sized crustacean was a suitable snack...several more would make a meal. 

Green Herons eat from a wide variety of aquatic life, mainly fish, but also including spiders, snails, reptiles and amphibians.

Today an amphibian is in his future...a bullfrog!

Stabbed straight through, the frog, if alive, is mortally wounded. It was just a matter of removing the frog from his bill and positioning it headfirst for swallowing. This took six minutes of juggling, tossing and twisting to get the frog aligned just right. 

The bullfrog has given up and accepted his fate.  He hangs limp or expired. The heron has his meal.


All gone!

Now you might say the Green Heron has a
 'frog in his throat'.


Credit: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds
Sibley Guide to Birds

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Belted Kingfisher

With the entire North American continent to call home, you might think a Belted Kingfisher would be a little easier to find.

Not so.

If every birder has a nemesis bird in their life, this would be mine.

I could call it bad luck, bad timing or bad's all the same in the end...a beautiful bird that flies away.

The time spent chasing a Belted Kingfisher is never wasted, though, because kingfishers live in beautiful places...always near water.  They live on fish, as their name implies, and other aquatic life.

Surprisingly or at least noteworthy, the female Belted Kingfisher is more colorful than the male. She sports an additional rufous band under her wings and across her breast that the male does not.

The male, to be sure, is no ugly partner in this relationship though.

He's stud-muffin beautiful perched across the river.

Oddly beautiful might be the apt description to place on these birds.

Almost prehistoric in appearance they make you thankful Belted Kingfishers are not seven feet tall and weigh a hundred pounds.


Credit: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds

Monday, August 1, 2016

Green Herons

Call this a picnic at the river for two young Green Herons patrolling the waters below Thiensville Village Park dam, Thiensville, Wisconsin.

In knee deep water (s)he was finding many good items to eat ranging from tiny insects to more meaty fare.

Her companion, possibly a sibling, hunts from a snag out in the river. Red-winged dragon flies were everywhere this day and the unlucky ones were on the menu.

Fishing is always good, but it required some intense concentration to be successful.

Whether it was good luck, skill or the profusion of prey, these similar-sized heron companions were having a stellar day. Green Herons hunt by day or night, usually in four inches of water or less. They eat from a wide variety of water borne creatures including fish, crustaceans, spiders, reptiles and rodents.

This forlorn creature was plucked from the shoreline never to be seen again.

Still small and immature and crow-sized for comparison, Green Herons grow into football sized adults.

A stocky body conceals a surprisingly long neck.  Waiting motionless while unsuspecting prey venture within range, the Green Heron either grasps or spears prey.

At which point it is game-over.


(Click any picture to enlarge.)

Credit: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, All About Birds