Here's something you don't see every morning—a great blue heron catching, killing, and eating a fairly long snake for breakfast. Well, maybe I ought to say I think the snake was dead before the heron gulped it down—but since there's generally a lot of wiggle remaining in a recently deceased snake, it's only a humanitarian presumption.
|A few whacks on the rocks below the water willows…|
Anyway, that's exactly what I saw yesterday morning when I stepped outside with the dog. The big bird was on the weedy gravel bar across from the cottage. This long islet is currently dry and—if you're a heron—knee-deep in water willow.
As I watched the long-legged bird wade cautiously through the stalks, it suddenly paused, alert, then quickly bent and shot its long beak into the dense vegetation. A moment later it reared up with its writhing prize—what looks to me to be about an 18-inch northern water snake.
|…a quick gulp, and gulp, and gulp again…|
Naturally, the snared snake was rather upset by this unexpected turn of events, and began lashing about for all it was worth. In turn, the heron would slam it down onto the bar's stoney deck. Eventually the blows took their toll. The wild lashing became mild wiggling…and without further fuss, the heron simply tossed it back and down—and with one big gulp the snake disappeared, though you could see a lumpy bulge in the back of the heron's throat for a few moments.
Yeah, that kinda grossed me a bit, too—and I'm fairly ungrossable. Or maybe it was simply because I'd not yet had my morning coffee.
|…and it's time to go looking for a second helping.|
Frankly, I'm still not sure whether I feel most sorry for the poor serpent who got ate, or the poor bird who did the eating. I am glad the victim wasn't one of my queen snakes.
After that, ol' blue simply gave a settling shake of his feathers, and began stalking anew, looking for whatever else he might find to skewer and consume. Who says a canny heron needs water to hunt?