Nothing exemplifies patience better (in the bird world) than herons and egrets fishing. On a recent morning walk at the marsh at Wood Lake nature center, I spied these statues along the shore.
I love the mirror image of this statuesque bird. Unfortunately, I disturbed its hunting and it flew off.
If they are undisturbed by a photographer’s presence, they will stand, unmoving in a fixed stance, for minutes on end, patiently waiting for the unwary fish or invertebrate to swim by.
I was so far away from this bird that it continued its imitation of a bird statue for 10 minutes while I stood there.
An imperceptible lowering of the bird’s head must mean there is something interesting there, but another 5 minutes went by with the bird in this position with no action. I moved on.
Further along the marsh shore I spied a juvenile Green Heron repositioning itself on a branch. It assumed the statue stance… while I hid behind a tree to capture what I hope would be some fishing action.
Sure enough, within a minute of landing, the heron started into its attack stance.
Another lesson in patience — holding a pose while upside down clinging to a branch. Waiting…waiting…(me with my finger on the shutter, I mean).
The strike and grab happened in a blink. To make up for my slow trigger finger, I just pressed down on the shutter and rapidly clicked off multiple shots.
It’s a tiny little fish, but every calorie taken in counts when you’re trying to put on fat to migrate.
Toss that baby back in the throat, just like you would a much bigger fish.
And now back to pose number one — the statue impression.
The patient hunter reaps a reward! Herons and Egrets have an astounding 70% average success rate (# of captures/# of strikes) in both natural and man-made aquatic environments in the southeastern U.S*. I assume it’s roughly the same up here in the northland. Great Blue Herons were by far the most successful hunters in estuary habitat, racking up a 93% success rate there. Great Egrets enjoyed their greatest success along rivers (94%). Snowy Egrets were almost equally successful in a variety of aquatic habitats (65-75% success) but were not able to match the prey catching efficiency of their larger cousins.
*data from H.D. Mincey, 2006. MS Thesis, Georgia Southern University.