Thursday, October 16, 2008

Heron Update

The herons have been particularly active in 2008. My guess is that there are more herons on the lake this year than in other years (see previous post).

During the last month, I've twice been privy to blue heron fish feasts. Attached is a sequence of pictures followed by a video documenting the two incidents. In the first, the heron swallows a sizable crappie (or calico bass), and follows it up with a lake water chaser. The pictures were taken while sitting in a plastic Adirondack chair in the front yard.

The second incident occurred this morning. These pictures, including the video, were taken from my living room.

As the picture window curtains parted, a heron flew to a mat of weeds about 10 feet off shore with what was easily identifiable with the naked eye as a pickerel. The telephoto lens confirms the size.

It was one big fish, an estimated 12-14 inches, gap mouthed and showing rows of sharp teeth. It took the heron at least 15 minutes to subdue it.

A full memory card prevented the filming of the final gulp. After the drama, I brewed my coffee and chowed down on oat bran cereal.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Beautiful Elegant Honking Predator

No question that at first glance the Great Blue Heron seems an elegant bird, a graceful flapper, a stately stander. But when it opens its trap and emits a guttural honk as if its sinuses were plugged, you can’t help but be jarred.

This same thing of beauty is a relentless and ruthless hunter that will stand still until a fish, instinctively trying to hide, seeks the heron’s silhouette of shade. Then – whap – the bird strikes and, if successful, shakes the fight out its prey before gulping it down its gullet whole.

Put both these incongruities together – the beautiful elegant honking predator – and you gain a glimpse into the cove’s ongoing territorial squabble between two herons, one larger than the other, battling over feeding rights to the cove.

I’ve been noticing the smaller bird chased away on several occasions this summer, but, one late afternoon this week, the level of drama heightened when the smaller of the two floated in, landing on a clump of lilies in front of my cottage, giving me a front-row seat.

A minute later, the larger heron, starting its flight from the other side of the lake, gracefully flapped in, and began its dry-cough honking as it approached the intruder. The smaller heron flew away, and the larger heron, instead of staying to fish, returned on the same flight path across the lake, having successfully protected, from more than a quarter mile away, its feeding ground.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Jeepers Peepers

Sure sign of spring, the mating call of the peeper, a tiny frog with a piercing voice. Heard in wetlands from one end of New York State to the other, and many other states, reportedly. Check out Wikipedia, if you really must know more:

Can remember a spring ride taken last year along route 17 from Sullivan to Chautauqua Counties. Could even hear their piercing croaks from the car, zipping along at 60 miles an hour, windows rolled down.

Amazing creatures. Saw one once, very tiny. My meditative ear locked on to the lilliputian perpetrator a couple of feet away, and let the music bore into my head. It does to the ears what a momentary glance to the sun does to the eyes, temporarily blunting the sense.

This Youtube doesn't do the sound justice. It's taken 10 feet from the lake's edge. Gives an idea, however.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Mohican Lake Birdsongs

In the city, an ambulance or a car alarm can’t disrupt my sleep cycle, but in the country, the distant mating squawk of a redwing blackbird minutes before sunrise jolts me conscious. Couldn’t fight it, brewed coffee, stumbled outside, set up the camera.

Redwing blackbird uses every fiber of its being to produce its full-throated song.

Listen carefully and you can identify the songs of the tufted titmouse, chickadee, morning dove, Canada goose, and the drilling of a woodpecker. Note also the lone goose. Am I a lone goose?


Belated post noting the thawing of Mohican lake.

Tuesday, March 29, 2008

Wednesday, March 30, 2008