The pond had a visitor

June 20, 2020 • 7:45 am

The visitor is not one that I welcome in terms of potential carnage to my beloved ducks, but I do love to see it because the visitor is stately, splendid, and gorgeous.

It is, of course, a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), and we haven’t seen one at the pond for several weeks.  When I looked at the pondcam this morning, a giant bird was standing on the pond’s north bank. These things are huge; as Wikipedia notes: “It has head-to-tail length of 91–137 cm (36–54 in), a wingspan of 167–201 cm (66–79 in), a height of 115–138 cm (45–54 in), and a weight of 1.82–3.6 kg (4.0–7.9 lb).” They’re four feet tall or so! And when you’re fairly close to one, you can see that.

I think they come to the pond looking for fish, as the “ducklings” now seem to be too large to be a heron snack. Nevertheless, still fearful because great blues can eat huge fish, I watched it for a while before I made it fly away. The ducklings didn’t seem bothered: the whole brood was nearby looking at it curiously:

After a while I approached it, knowing that would make it fly, but it flew to the other bank near the cement bench. And the whole brood, which stayed together, moved in that direction to further inspect the bird. They didn’t seem scared at all, though had it been a dog, they would have fled.

You can see how large it is when comparing it to the brood, which are approaching full adult mallard size:

These are magnificent animals, so big and majestic. And I could hear no sound as it flew:

The light was low, and because the camera was handheld at about 1/10 of a second, the photos aren’t sharp. But look at that beak!

I walked toward it on the other bank, and it flew off, but only into a nearby tree:

After a while I decided I couldn’t wait there to see if it left, and, fearful it might still try to eat a duckling (they might be big enough to do that), I clapped my hands until it flew off to the east. I hear that there are several of these that frequent the ponds and lakes behind the Museum of Science and Industry, which is in that direction. There are better pickings for them there anyway, as our pond has almost no fish, and the ones we have are small.

16 thoughts on “The pond had a visitor

  1. I’m sorry, them Herons is duckling murderers.

    Trigger warning, don’t want if squeamish:

    JAC: I have removed the embedded video as it disturbs me a lot. You can find the link here if you must watch this carnage.

  2. The great blue heron are fun to watch and they are very good fishermen. I believe they also like frogs. Great photos.

  3. I saw a video showing a GBH imbibing a full grown muskrat. I’m sure the young ducks would be edible too. However, I suspect the Heron is not interested in chasing down a whole clutch. It really wants some slippery fish.

  4. as the “ducklings” now seem to be too small to be a heron snack.
    That should be too large

    1. Herons can swallow unbelievably large prey, snake-like. I would not be surprised if they could swallow an adult duck, let alone a duckling.
      I once saw one swallow an undiscript mammal (it was not very close and with counter-light) about the size of a mallard duck.

      1. It seems likely that a heron would eat a snake, maybe a pretty big one. At least it seems certain to be no trouble sucking down a long one. And they do eat frogs. For some reason, I’ve never done a taste-test to compare.

  5. We get herons often down on the river on which I live, but we’re 70 feet up from it.

    Only one ‘negative’ with one of those guys: about 15 years ago one was flying way up across our place and bombed the deck with a large gob of poop.

    No casualties. No declaration of war.

  6. Love to watch great blue herons fly; with the “S” curve in their necks. Had one fly across the road right in front of my car a while back at an altitude of about six feet. Startled me to say the least.

    I was involved in a potential construction project several years ago that needed clearance from the state Department of Environmental Protection because it was in the vicinity of one of the largest great blue heron rookeries in the state. In the winter you could see 50-60 nests in a cluster of trees about 500 feet from where the project was to be located. Amazing creatures!

  7. For such a large bird, I’m surprised that branch can support it. Looks awkward up there. And I agree that they are lovely and majestic birds.

  8. We also have great blue herons in our area (the Presidio of San Francisco). They are liable to pop up unexpected. I seen one by sand dunes far from any pond and another near the golf course. They are beautiful birds and eerie ones. They’re not only freakishly tall but stand disturbingly still. I can imagine how terrifying these silent killers must look to small animals.

  9. This reminded me of a couple of (so-called) poems I wrote about Great Blue Herons. If I were still trying to write, I’d have to write about the Great Blue Heron and the ducklings:

    Great Blue Herons

    Male Great Blue Herons
    are mostly gray;
    necks streaked white,
    black, rust-brown;
    feet: green; bills: yellow.

    However, the eggs
    are pale-blue.

    They are monogamous;
    one year at a time.

    They share parenting
    duties at the nest, sit,
    turn over eggs
    until they hatch.
    Both feed fledglings
    until they fly.

    They prefer calm
    inland waters,
    not violent seashores.

    They stand in water,
    green feet in mud;
    head lifted upward
    on long, streaked neck
    toward the sun, or
    tucked under a wing.

    They hunt alone, but
    sleep together
    in large groups.

    They’re not as noisy
    as other herons, even
    when frightened.

    Ardea Herodias

    Great Blue Heron’s
    species name is
    Ardea Herodias.

    Herodias was
    a Jewish princess
    living in the time of Christ,
    and of, also, John the Baptist.
    First, she married her uncle,
    Herod II, with whom she had
    a daughter, Salome.

    After they divorced, Herodias
    wed Herod Antipas,
    tetrarch of Galilee
    (her brother-in-law.)
    Marrying and divorcing
    of too-close family members
    gave her a bad name
    with John the Baptist.

    She is best known for
    her extreme anger at John.
    She had her daughter, Salome,
    dance for Herod Antipas,
    and ask for, as her reward,
    John the Baptist’s head
    on a platter (which she got.)

    What has any of this to do
    with Great Blue Heron’s?

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