Tuesday, November 20, 2018
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Ridgefield NWR: a Heron & some Crazy Coots (Part III)

I’m fascinated by the odd-looking Great Blue Herons. I see them quite often while fishing at the Cowlitz River. They have a snorting call they use at takeoff or landing. They sound like flying pigs.

I was thrilled when this heron (seemed to) drop out of the sky and land right in front of our car at the refuge. I rarely get to see one in action up close, the river herons are fairly skittish.

They’re a tough bird to photograph. Their small head, long neck and wide bodies and long, thin legs makes it hard to get a good, clear focus.

This the largest of the North American herons, he stands at about 4-1/2 ft. and has a wingspan of 6 ft.

Great Blue Herons live in both freshwater and saltwater habitats, and also forage in grasslands and agricultural fields, where they stalk frogs and mammals.

This heron sneaked ever so slowly along the edge of the waterway, foraging for his supper. Sneaky, sneaky, sneaky.

I wonder how many teeny tiny fish it takes to fill up a heron?

“Great Blue Herons congregate at fish hatcheries, creating potential problems for the fish farmers. A study found that herons ate mostly diseased fish that would have died shortly anyway. Sick fish spent more time near the surface of the water where they were more vulnerable to the herons” ~www.allaboutbirds.org

I really enjoyed watching the American Coots.

“The expression ‘crazy as a coot’ may at first seem inappropriate for such well-adapted, successful waterbirds, but watch American Coots through the seasons and the expression will make sense. During the breeding season, coots are among the most spirited and aggressive waterbirds in the world, quick to take offense and always finding something to squabble about. They can often be seen sunning across the surface of the water on their lobed feet or swimming head down with white frontal ‘shields’ flashing to intimidate rivals and other, larger waterfowl.” ~Birds of Washington State, Lone Pine Press

“The American Coot has been nicknamed the ‘marsh hen’ or ‘mud hen’ because of the way they bob their heads when they walk or swim. Coots don’t have webbed feet, but their toes are lobed on either side, enabling them to paddle through the water.

“They seem part chicken and part eagle — especially in attitude. Coots, like eagles, are kleptoparasitic, which means that when they don’t feel like hunting up their own supper, they’ll steal a meal from another bird.” ~Kimberly Mason, For The Chronicle, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge: A Wildlife Observation Blind on Wheels

Visit the Friends of the Ridgefield NWR or the official F&W website for more information about the refuge.

Next up: Ridgefield NWR: the Latest Additions to my Life List (Part IV)

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