Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Big, huge bird!

I was reading a magazine when I was disturbed by something large passing by the window. When I looked out I could see a very large bird with long legs so I immediately thought...a stork... but we don't have storks here...at least I haven't seen one.

I thought it flew past our house but it apparently alighted on our roof because 5 minutes later it flew down, right in front of the window again only closer and larger this time. I could see it at the edge of our small pond and thought I had better save the goldfish and Shubunkins from being eaten. But I wanted to get a good photo of the bird before I shooed it away. Well, I didn't have to shoo it, it was so wary it took off before I even got closer than 40 feet from the bird. It flew to our neighbor's roof so I took a few photos of the bird using the puny 3X telephoto and 4X digital tele. and having had my eyes dilated from an earlier eye exam, made looking up into the bright sky excruciating hence the lousy photos.

I went back in the house to identify the bird which turned out to be a Great Blue Heron and went out again to see if it flew down to the pond. It was at the pond but it was the larger pond near the house so it immediately flew off as soon as I opened the door, this time to the other neighbors' roof. So I never did get a good photo of the bird and it eventually got tired of my peeking up at it and flew off. I wish it were a selective eater and would take some of our unwanted ubiquitous comets, it looked quite skinny and could have used a nourishing meal, but I sure wouldn't want a wholesale massacre perpetuated by an unknown raccoon when it took 4 large Koi out of the big pond.

The Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias is North America's largest heron. It's length is about 48" and has a wingspread of 80"


Blogger Yolanda Elizabet said...

Although Herons are protected birds here, they are considered a pest by many a gardener as they eat all the fish from our ponds. I'm not quite sure why they are protected as we have zillions of them and that makes it extremely hard to keep fish in our garden ponds. Good thing you shooed it away Ki!

12:32 AM  
Blogger Entangled said...

What a cool yard bird! I've heard about people filing police reports about "stolen" koi, but the perpetrator frequently turns out to be a critter the police can't arrest - heron or raccoon or something.

3:31 AM  
Anonymous Pam/Digging said...

How wonderful that you got to see this majestic bird at close range, Ki.

6:22 AM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Though it may be a pest, what an awesome bird to see in your backyard! I am used to my little sparrows hopping around, and the biggest bird I have seen so far is a Blue Jay :P Thanks for sharing!

8:25 AM  
Anonymous Gina said...

I think it's an amazing bird. We get a similar one around here only a few times a year - the white faced heron.

12:40 PM  
Blogger Connie said...

Wow - that is one cool bird! We have seen one on occasion sitting on a rock in the same section of river we pass by each week. I always wish I had my camera with me.

12:58 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Yolanda Elizabet,
The bird has a long memory. It came back again today! Set up a large unbrella over the small pond. All the fish are hiding in the big pond but the bird may be persistent. I hope this will not be an on going battle.

Hi Entangled,

I can believe people would think their koi was stolen. That's what I thought until I saw a pectoral fin on the rock surround. I glad at least the fish seemed to give a good fight and pulled the critter into the water because the water lily leaves were shredded. The bird is so nice to see along a lakeshore but not in my backyard.

Hi Pam,
You'd think if the bird was going to eat my fish, it could pose up close for some pictures. ;)


Hi Gina,
I've seen a few herons at a nearby large lake but this is the first time one came to our pond. About a month ago I saw one flying pretty low over tne neighborhood. I bet it's the same bird. Probably scouting for an easy meal.


Hi Connie,
I wouldn't have known the bird came to eat the fish unless I happened to look up when I saw something out of the corner of my eye. Luckily it was at my house because I could grab my camera for a few pictures. Bad because now it's becoming a pest. Isn't it always the case - a good photo op but no camera. ;)

Thanks all for your comments.

3:54 PM  
Blogger Vanillalotus said...

What a beautiful bird. I'm sorry to hear that it likes to get at your fish though. I always loved seeing the blue herons in the marsh areas especially when they fly close to the ground. Wish you best in future protection of your koi.

7:51 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Thanks for the wish Vanillalotus. We'll be extra vigilant for a few days. I think that bird may have a long memory and may be waiting for an unguarded moment to take a few fish. I saw one take some goldfish at a park once and thought it interesting. But it's not interesting when it's taking your own fish!

6:21 PM  
Blogger Phillip said...

What an awesome sight to see on your rooftop. It is a really beautiful bird.

6:04 AM  
Blogger weeder1 said...

Herons and raccoons are the biggest reason (the other being money) that I stick with goldfish and mosquito fish instead of koi!
Your photos are beautiful Ki! I've scrolled down through so many this morning that I can't wait for daylight to head out with my camera. Your photos are inspiring!

6:56 AM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Phillip,
It really is a huge bird and even more so when the wings are outstretched. Unfortunately the quality of the optical plus digital zoom degrades the photos so much, you don't see the really beautiful colors on the bird. Quite awesome...I just wish it wouldn't try to eat our fish.

7:01 AM  
Blogger Annie in Austin said...

Ki, seeing that heron must have been very exciting ....ONCE. We've heard many a tale of woe from pond owners when we've gone on the Austin Pond Tours. One guy actually built a brick addition to his house with the koi pond inside after having too many expensive fish turn into heron lunch.

I hope you can access this link to an archive of Austin Pond society messages on heron protection. I think you need to sign up to participate in the current forum linked in the sidebar.

I have no fish to protect, so seeing the heron would just be fun for me!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

8:47 AM  
Blogger kate said...

Since the Great Blue Heron seems pretty exotic to me, I am impressed that you were able to see one so close to you. I might feel differently if I had one eating my fish though.

They are definitely majestic-looking birds!

1:54 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Annie,
It was quite exciting to see the huge bird with wingspan that blocked the view from two windows. I didn't know they were such a problem for people with ponds. I wonder if a fake owl or some other kind of raptor would discourage it. Thanks for the link to the pond society. I haven't seen it around today but it's been a blustery cold day with winds of 30- 40 mph so it must be difficult to fly for such a big bird. Now if I could train it to take only the unwanted comets it would be welcome to come around anytime but only if I could photograph it too.

Hi Kate,
The poor fishies are all hiding under the lily pads. Lucky for them the water in the big pond is a bit murky so they can't be easily seen. The small pond is crytal clear so we have a large umbrella over it. So far so good ... no diminished population of fish. The bird is quite elegant looking. Maybe I should give up raising fish, just keep stocking the pond with feeder fish and have the heron as a pet. Now there's an idea!

7:12 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Weeder 1,
I don't know how I missed your comment but I'm sorry I did.

Thanks for the kind words about the photos. I'm trying to take better pictures by taking a lot of photos of the same subject. I find that just a slightly different angle or how much of the subject is included in the photo makes a huge difference. Lighting too is crucial. If you want to see come really nice photos, see Chris' photos at Digital Flower Pictures.com. You can find his site on my list of links.

After a suspected raccoon took 3 of our biggest koi, I was pretty angry and disgusted at the carnage and 5 years of rearing the fish. If the heron takes more of the fish I may just pack it in and just have the pond for waterlilies. I also thought that sunfish might be an interesting pond fish but I have no idea if they could live in such a small space or if you could actually see the bright colors on the side of the fish.

Thanks for your comment.

4:47 PM  
Blogger lisa said...

Good luck with the heron Ki, but I'm afraid that you've been "spotted" and likely placed on his diner's club map! Between raccoons, herons, kingfishers, and cormorants, I couldn't have a real pond if I wanted to! Seems silly to even want one since I live on a river, but I like water plants. It's just my proximity brings all the predators in, so all I can have is tub water gardens with no fish. :(

2:24 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hey Lisa,
I'm hoping this one has the bird equivalent of Alzheimer's disease and will have forgotten where our ponds are. We've had overcast and damp dreary days and haven't seen the heron since I first spotted it so maybe it found a more productive source.

I've seen cormorants, herons and egrets but no kingfisher. It would be so cool to see that bird with such a big beak and head with a little body. Sorry to read that you can't have a pond. Just as well I suppose as I'm finding that they are a ton of work to maintain.

5:45 PM  
Anonymous M Sinclair Stevens (Texas) said...

When you said stork, my mind went immediately to Meindert Dejong's wonderful children's book "The Wheel on the School".

The sight of the great heron fills me with awe...although I'd not like it eyeing my fishies, even though I have only a few insignificant comets. (BTW, we have bird-netting over the pond as a temporary solution until we finish construction of our covered patio. And it's done a good job of keeping out the raccoons so far.)

mss @ Zanthan Gardens

4:55 PM  

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