It was late afternoon and my knees were about to give out. They were screaming, “Stand up! Stand Up! We can’t crouch like this much longer!” But I didn’t want to move, my subject was about to strike and I was afraid I’d ruin the moment.
He was a handsome bird, all dusky grey with black markings that looked deep blue when the sun hit it. He had a yellow widow’s peak of feathers and matching yellow eyes. Curving back from his crown, two thin ribbons of plumage swayed in the breeze giving him a Bohemian air. If I were a lady night heron, he’d definitely get my motor revving.
The heron ignored me even though I was only a few feet from where he stood. Nor did he care about the 5 people standing behind me like a photographic firing squad. He had crabs to catch. Tiny, quarter-sized crabs that lived in the soft, soggy sand at his feet.
Apparently, there were a lot of crabs. I couldn’t see them. I just watched as he locked on to one as if he had x-ray vision. Then, with laser-like focus he stalked it, his long toes lifting and flexing as he inched his way towards his prey.
In a flash, the night heron would strike, plucking a crab from the sand then tossing it into the air to reposition it in his beak. A millisecond later the crab was gone, swallowed with a series of satisfied gulps.
My favorite part of the show, however, took place a few seconds before he attacked. When he extended his neck in preparation to strike, his back end began to wiggle. It reminded me of the way my cat, heck, a lion for that matter, wiggles its butt in anticipation before pouncing on its intended victim. I had no idea that birds did it too! It was so cute I had to take a video. (see below)
(Be sure to check out the butt wiggle at 24 seconds….it’s so cute!)
I left. I drove around the refuge. I went back. His butt was still wiggling and he was still drawing a crowd. If I didn’t know better, I would’ve sworn that he was on the payroll.