• James E Aarons DVM

Blue Heron Eats Breakfast

Updated: Apr 29


It was barely light outside when Katie opened her eyes. It took her a moment to remember where she was. As she lay there, thinking about the majestic raptors and Tal, she heard a tap on her door. “Yes, who is it?”

“Tal.” He whispered very softly.

“Well, come in,” she whispered back.

He came in, softly closing the door behind him. She pushed herself up into a sitting position as he sat on the edge of the bed.

“So, what's up, and why so early? Are we dawn hunting now?”

“No, there’s a heron on the lawn.”

“A heron? Is that a new thing around here?”

“Brian says it is. Apparently, this same bird has been here for the last three mornings. It’s on some type of mission, looking for something, but we don’t have a clue what it wants. Do you want to see? We thought maybe, with your veterinary training, you could help us figure this out.”

“I didn't exactly study heron behavior but, okay. Let me get a robe on.” She rummaged through her bag, then walked to the closet and found a jacket to wear over her pajamas. At the door, she stopped. “Wait Tal, I have to pee. I’ll be right back.” She scurried to the bathroom. She lingered a little to make sure she looked okay and rummaged through the drawers to find a hairbrush. There was a tube of toothpaste by the sink. She rubbed some on her teeth, rinsed, and splashed water on her face. It would have to do.

“So, what about this heron, Tal.” She followed him into the kitchen.

“We can watch from out here.” They slipped out the back door and joined Brian on a screened-in porch. Sure enough, right there on the lawn stood a large, stork-like bird. It was mostly grey with a white head, and looked to be at least six feet tall.

Katie observed him for a minute. “Herons are water birds, you know. See its long pointed beak? It allows him to peck at just the right spot on the beach so he can grab a crab, or tidbit easily. And, see the methodical movement he’s doing? I'm not sure, but I think he’s hunting.”

“On a grass lawn, with the nearest water pond a half-mile away? Do you think maybe he has a disease?” Brian wondered.

“He looks like he's in good physical condition. He' not skinny, his feathers are glossy and maintained, and he's very bright and alert. No, I don't think he's sick.”

“Do you want some coffee, Dr. Reynolds?” Robin came out the door with two cups of latte.

“Oh yes, please, and call me Katie.” She turned back to watch the feathered hunter on the grass lawn, walking towards a point in intense concentration. He was focused on something in front of him, but Katie couldn't see anything there.

She took a sip of her coffee. It was warm and sweet from the milk. “Oh this is great, thanks Robin.”

The bird slowed its careful gawky walk and dropped its head to closely examine a spot on the lawn.

“Oh, you guys are watching the heron. Have you figured out what he's doing?”

No one answered her as they watched the bird standing as still as a statue for a long time.

Katie counted softly. “Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen...”

Gophers for Breakfast! Chapter 19

In a split-second the heron drove his head to the ground came back up with a squirming, furry ball in its beak.

“Whoa, did you see that?” Brian cheered. “He caught something… I’ll be damned, it’s a gopher!”

The bird held the frantic gopher firmly in his beak and stood tall for a few seconds as he decided how to dispatch his prey. He wandered around for almost another minute trying to decide on the next step. This creature was nothing like his usual prey, slimy wet fish.

“Damn he’s persistent,” Tal said. “The gopher is squirming really hard and he still can't get away.”

“Now we know why he’s been hanging around, Tal.”

After a few more bouts of head shaking and decision making the heron dropped the gopher. Robin was appalled. “What, did he just let it go? He's been here for days trying to catch the thing.”

A split second later, the heron retrieved the gopher, threw it high into the air, and swallowed the entire thing, working all of it into his gullet. No one said anything for another few minutes as they all watched the swallowed gopher lump make its way from head to trunk down the bird’s neck.

“Jeez, it ate the whole thing, I'm blown away,” Brian said.

“Yeah, very impressive.” Tal laughed.

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