Sunday, January 08, 2012

The Great Blue Heron Challenge


My Spark Bird is the Great Blue Heron. For years I sought to capture images like this. And today, I could publish an album of my best Great Blue Heron photographs.

I’ve recently had a change of heart.

My love/hate relationship began with this bird when I lived in Maryland. Rinsing dishes, bored, I glanced out back through the window and saw the giant standing on the edge my pond. To see this majestic bird only a few yards away will make most anyone gasp. The bird is stunning but not so stunning that I was unable to chase the son of a bitch out of the yard yelling and cursing all the way. That particular heron cleaned the goldfish from the Maryland pond three times.

“Get your fat bird ass out of here and break a leg, will ya?”

Great Blue Heron sat on my neighbor’s rooftop and laughed at me.

Smaller herons visited my Delaware pond but weren’t successful there. The owl decoy and aluminum pie plates clacking in the wind kept them away.

Here in North Carolina, I've raised six Koi since 2005. They grew from four to thirteen inches and probably now weigh a little more than two pounds each. A good friend described them as puppy dogs and she’s right. Always pleased to see me, wiggling in delight, I talk to them every day, even when they are stunned, cold, and lay at the bottom of the pond in the dead of winter. In six years, there have been no perpetrators until last Sunday.


The perp found us. Did I freak out? You betcha. But I did race for my camera to get this snapshot from inside the house before I ran out there and raised all kinds of hell. They’re so tall, lanky, and uncoordinated it’s laughable to watch them try to exit quickly. They really need a slow gallop on a runway for a few seconds before lift-off.

For me, it’s been hell week, and also for my neighbor who lost all of the Koi in his small water feature.


My husband sprang into action and created a tactical combat zone for the cocky, arrogant Great Blue Heron who sat on the hill with a yellow eye on us, waiting for the coast to clear.

Great Blue Heron did not care about decoys or scarecrows.

He did not care about dense fishing lines stretched across the pond surface.

He probably wondered why humans think he’d mind stupid shiny pie plates.

He fished day and night, all week. I was very surprised to see him at the pond at 10pm and fly away into darkness.

Herons have to eat and I have a heron feeder in my back yard. I shouldn’t be so angry and wish to throw rocks.

Casualties are one smaller Koi taken away, two large goldfish swallowed, and one large Koi was cut and froze to death on the grassy outside edge of the pond because Heron had a problem. He’s unable to stuff a foot-long two-pounder down his throat. So instead, he tortured all of the Koi with jabs and scrapes and flung them around and out of the pond water for me to find.

My frustration grew and my heart was breaking.

I cried.


On Wednesday I came home from work to find this fat fella had been tossed. I brought a bag to carry him away but what I didn’t realize was that he was looking at me! I lifted him and saw him struggle to breathe so I quickly and gently lowered him into the water where he floated for an hour. I thought him dead and netted him but he would not have it! His mouth opened wide as if to scream, he struggled to be free of the net, and I joyously put him back where he belonged. He swam low, nudged his three pond mates, and I smiled.


Today, the Courageous Four are safely tucked in with a blanket pond net.

While I cried on that awful Wednesday afternoon I heard them. They landed not far from where I stood and have been back every day for their helping of Zick dough.

Three couples!



Banded lady!



Bluebirds of Happiness. My sunshine on a gloomy day.

Damn you, Great Blue Heron.


RuthieJ said...

Oh Mary, your bluebirds are beautiful. I'm glad they were able to bring you some happiness during your GBH fiasco.

Dawn Fine said...

Oh..thank goodness you put on the brother-in-law had to do that too.
Happy Birding and hopefully no more Koi casualties.

Kathie Brown said...

Mary, I would cry too! I love goldfish but have never had koi. Still, from the way you talk about them; I am so amazed that the fish can get to know you so well. What a heart-breaking struggle to have: your love of birds and your love of your fish at odds with each other. I hope you can out-fox the heron and save you fish. And I am glad the bluebird of happiness has landed on your shoulder once again!

Wendy said...

How heartbreaking! I would have cried too. And I also am amazed at how your koi fish know you so well.

Glad you got that net and I hope it keeps those awful herons out. They look so majestic, but when they eat your pet koi fish....

Bluebirds are gorgeous. We'll have to wait a long time to see any in our area.

Julie Zickefoose said...

That photo of the beached koi absolutely haunts me. I tried to share this incredible post on Facebook but they censored it. Whatever. I'd shout from the hilltops about your work. I hope this brings your misery to an end. That poor, poor fishyboy. His look says it all.

KGMom said...

Mary--here's hoping you have foiled the heron.
And, pray tell, do you plan to restock with a new bunch of koi?

Anonymous said...

Madening how what we love can become our nemesis. You are quite polite writing about that darn heron. (I have loved them, too)

I remember one fall sitting in the Bok Tower gardens in Central Florida and watching a Great Blue devour many large goldfish in their beautiful reflecting pond. I remember how torn I felt watching him(her?) catch those bright orange fish.

I would be devestated to lose any I had personally grown. Hope the brave remaining four have a quieter winter.

I love those bluebirds. Have you recorded the band pattern so you can report the bird to whoever banded it?

Kathy in Delray Beach

PJ said...

Oh, upsetting that must have been! What a nightmare for the fish...I guess the chicken wire solves it! ..caged fish :(

JeanMac said...

my brother loses his fish to raccoon! sorry for you, Mary.

dguzman said...

Those Great Blues have no pride, taking fish out of little yard-ponds. I'm so glad your little fish made it! He was too strong to die!

Love the bluebird pics!

ONNO said...

I've only ever seen the great blue heron from a distance and fortunately nowhere near any fish I know. Thanks for posting.

Dani @ ONNO Organic Clothing

Lisa V said...

I love your bird pics, Mary. Birds became my friends when I lived in isolation in Upstate New York. I was home all day with just my kids and it was always exciting when something other the the bluejays would come to the feeder. The most exciting bird for me to see was the Indigo Bunting. The color of that bird was so magnificient it could only make one thing, "yes, there is definitely a God."

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