Heron, Gopher, Dog

Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias)

As a photographer, I was lucky. The Great Blue Heron stalked slowly westward on the meadow in the southeast corner of the park. I’ve watched these birds a dozen times pacing and exploring with no result. This time, I’d hardly started recording when the bird struck. Not so lucky was a rather fat gopher (Thomomys bottae) that had carelessly surfaced. The bird squeezed the breath out of the burrowing rodent in seconds. Then a few tosses and the bird was ready. It unhinged its jaws and devoured the gopher with quick gulps. Getting it inside was one thing, but getting this chunky piece of lunch down the bird’s long narrow neck and into the stomach was another matter. I filmed for a full six minutes before the bird managed to wrestle the big lump from the top of its neck into its gizzard. (That effort is edited down for you to just a few seconds.) No sooner had the bird stowed its meal away than an off leash dog attacked it. The heron took flight and landed a short distance away. The dog pursued and chased it into the air again. The dog’s owner came running, throw-stick in hand, and led the canine toward the park exit. The whole scene took place in an area well outside the dog park.

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