A Great Blue Heron hunting on land? Not so unusual, really, as they have a varied diet that includes “frogs, salamanders, turtles, snakes, insects, rodents, and birds”. [Source: Audubon]
What is odd is that this park is adjacent to the bay where you will typically see a variety of shore birds hunting for fish.
I first spotted this bird last year, and thought it may have been injured. It was standing motionless as people passed by on the bike path just feet away. It’s not unusual behavior for gulls and pigeons, but rather strange for a Great Blue Heron.
However, nothing would deter this most patient of hunters who remained focused on its objective. The park is home to a thriving rodent population. I remember some years ago when a trapped rat tested positive for the bubonic plague.
Making a Mountain Out of a Molehill
There are hundreds of molehills throughout the park. You can’t take a step without tripping over a hole. This particular bird has a taste for mole rats. It will stand motionless over a mound of dirt (as seen below) simply waiting for the chance to strike.
In the image below, I cropped out the actual strike. From this point on, the life-and-death struggle was rather unsettling, and it left me feeling very squeamish. To even describe what I saw, well, you’ll just have to use your imagination.
It was slow and agonizing for the prey who, after a few minutes, was swallowed whole — alive and kicking. (Those images were deleted.) It reminded me of the scene in Jurassic Park where the T-Rex preys on people.
Not surprising, I suppose, when you consider that birds descended from dinosaurs. I’m just glad that humans are higher up on the food chain.
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