The Great Blue Heron has been stymied this summer. The pond is high as the sluice culvert is blocked with sand from the rising tides of the ocean and he cannot find shallow enough water to stand in for his eel fishing. The Cormorant has no such problem and swoops in to dive under, covering himself in eons of bottom silt before occasionally hitting pay dirt with a fat eel. Then he surfaces and bites it hard with his serrated teeth before gulping it down.
I always loved watching the Heron fish for eels, standing knee deep stark still, his eyes fixated on the water waiting for an unsuspecting eel to cruise by. With lightening speed the Heron darts his five-inch beak into the eel like a knife, spearing the eel and then working it between the bill’s top and bottom as he shakes his head furiously side to side in an attempt to kill the creature. This can take some time. A big four-foot eel does not go under easily and wriggles its body around the bird’s beak like spaghetti on a fork. The Heron then has to pry its beak open to get the eel back in shaking position again.
Once it took almost twenty minutes to subdue the eel. Finally the limp figure draped either side of the beak and the Heron did an artful flip of the eel into the air and slurped the entire body down like a giant noodle. The effort caused the bird some moments of what looked like indigestion before it composed itself and ran its beak through the water to clean it. Head down and beak up and the Heron had enough of a drink to extend its graceful wings and take to the sky.