Sunday, April 10, 2011

A big gulp at Ding Darling...

...continued from the Captiva Island posts.
One of the best parts of our Captiva Island vacation was located on the island next door...the Ding Darling National Wildlife Reserve on Sanibel Island. Usually I went to Ding Darling by myself while Matty and Rick played tennis, but one day Matty came with me. We were both watching this Great Blue Heron when he suddenly harpooned a huge fish. From the initial grab to the final swallow took one minute and 24 seconds...that's a big gulp!


Matty and I assumed there was no way the Great Blue Heron was going to be able to swallow the fish down whole. We were amazed he was able to lift the huge thing out of the water!



...thinking...


...thinking...


...repositioning...


...yowsers...


...Holy Cow...



...no way...


...yes way!
I love this shot because it clearly shows a unique trait among herons and egrets. In addition to having a long and slender neck, they are different than other birds and animals because their esophagus and trachea cross over and are located behind the spinal column. You can see that in the photo because the outline of the fish is at the back of the neck. This trait allows herons and egrets to compress their necks like a snake...and then strike out with explosive force to harpoon fish with their sharp bills. The location of the trachea and esophagus behind the vertebrae also protects them if the heron hits something while striking.


p.s. Saturday evening Rick and I took a walk along the Little Miami after the rainstorm, and we were "flooded" with Blue Gray Gnatcatcher song. The cute little birds were everywhere. Just two days earlier, I hiked the trail looking and listening for them, but they were no where to be found. I love when the little imps move in. Spring is here...

38 comments:

Birding is Fun! said...

Amazing! Way to go capturing the whole process.

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi Kelly, Great pictures of the heron having some din-din!!!!

I've been watching the webcam of the Decorah, Iowa Eagles... They have 3 little eaglets... Daddy brings food to the nest. The food can be anything from a big rabbit to lots of fish.... Yum!!!!! ha ha

Hugs,
Betsy

Ryan Ankeny said...

That is wild! Never knew that about their necks. Good stuff.

Ai KaiRui Liu said...

lovely shots, hope to see a heron in person...visiting from bird photography...followed you, hope you'll follow me back..

take a peek on my entry
http://lovingoutliving.blogspot.com/2011/04/these-were-parrots-found-at-water.html

Montanagirl said...

Fantastic series! You certainly stuck with him every gulp of the way. Great job, Kelly!

laubaine said...

excellent ...

mick said...

That's an amazing series of photos - especially the last one which shows so clearly how the bird swallows that huge fish. Congrats for getting the whole sequence!

Elaine said...

Yowsers is right! I would never have thought he could swallow a fish that big whole. Great series of shots!

Caroline said...

Terrific sequence! Some meal!

Chris said...

Wow amazing sequence Kelly!! This guy was hungry!! This is a huge fish and I thought he will not make it but he did!!! Incredible!

Laure Ferlita said...

Surely he needed a nap after that big ol' fish!!

Great shots, Kelly!

Lois Evensen said...

The Heron Fishing Series is incredible! Wow! Very interesting about the neck to accommodate large meals.

Roy said...

Great shots! I remember watching a Great Blue wrestling with a snake in the Gooseneck Cove salt marsh a couple of years ago; eventually the snake lost.

WPgirl said...

What a great series of pictures. Thanks for the nature lesson.

Kathy A. Johnson said...

Amazing photos and interesting facts, Kelly! What a cool experience to share with Matty.

Janice K said...

That sure was a big bite! You'd think he'd have a tummyache after that. Amazing pictures!

holdingmoments said...

What an amazing set Kelly.
A huge fish; I'd never have thought it could have swallowed it!

Roy said...

Atrocious table manners that Heron Kelly.{:)
That is one big fish.

Kitty said...

That is just eye-popping! I never knew that about herons' necks; a wonderful piece of info, thanks!

Carol Mattingly said...

Unbelievable. That heron actually ate that fish whole. That was a pretty good sized fish too. Wow! Carol

Wren said...

Great series of photos. I can't believe he ate the whole thing!

forgetmenot said...

Kelly, What an amazing and interesting thing to witness (great that you photographed the whole thing too). Unbelievable that he "got all of that down"! Mickie :)

Larry said...

Awesome series of the Great Blue Heron Kelly! Totally unbelievable! Not only did you give us incredible documentation but the information on their necks and the esophagus is fascinating. What a great post!

Steve Borichevsky said...

Unbelievable.

NicoleB said...

This is sooo darn amazing!
Gorgeous photos of this!
Never knew the neck part, always wondered how they do it - thanks :)

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NatureFootstep said...

I don´t know what to say. It is amazing. I guess that heron dont need anything more for supper.
An experience to be happy about.

Log Cabin Studio said...

A great post Kelly..wonderful photos and interesting facts.

Annette said...

Great bird photos and painting Kelly. We are enjoying looking at them and learning a lot about them . Thanks also for popping into my blog Annette

Phil said...

A great series of pictures Kelly and thanks for the biology lesson too!

Katie said...

Wowzers! That is unbelievable, Kelly! Thank you for sharing your excellent photo series, it would have been hard to believe if not for seeing. Fascinating information on the birds anatomy too. ;)

Kjell T. Evensen said...

Wow, and they call ME a "big mouth." :) Beautiful series.

Kelly said...

...hehehe! I think you all feel the same way we did--amazed that he could eat that fish, and so quickly too! I thought afterwards he would go and rest and roost in a tree, but he didn't! He stayed there like I was still looking for more to eat. Thanks, everyone! :-)

Kerri said...

"I can't believe he ate the whole thing" - Oh my ..... that was awesome!

texwisgirl said...

had to laugh when i saw this post! i did one a few weeks ago that was almost identical! and yes, positioned it facing towards him and down it went!!!

Susan said...

That's a super sized Gulp for sure! great sequence!

Unknown said...

Amazing captures and blog here! That looks like a huge (do you know what kind?) fish staring down its captor’s throat!

So the bird was really able to win the struggle and gulp down that big fish okay?? Does the prey put up a good fight, if eaten, does the unlucky fish get swallowed wriggling/alive all the way as well?!

-Kyle

Kelly said...

@Kyle.....Hi Kyle...yes, the Great Blue Heron swallowed the bird down and did fine. It was amazing to watch. It looked to be moving for a while. It was very strange! That fish was huge but was no match for the heron! (I don't know what kind of fish it was...I know next to nothing about fish!)