Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Hungry Heron

This Great Blue Heron was feeding just below the dam. Imagine, his ears are filled with the white noise of the cascade and it has to tip its head this way and that to see the fish in the river. While one eye peers into the swirling water the other is glaring skyward --here he's saw a few people just above at the railing at the top of the retaining wall and has craned his neck to get a better look.

Sometimes he gets spooked and swoops over to the small island in the middle of the river below the dam. But this time he was agitated and returned quickly to hunting. Soon he had a small bluegill in his beak. This fish was a manageable size that was soon on its way, still wiggling, down his long throat. Then it was time to retreat to the island for digestion and drying out.

On the island, the Great Blue Heron flares out its wings to dry and warm up and imitates a statue of a heron. 
several studies of the heron
(graphite, conté pencil)

quick studies of the heron
(graphite, conté pencil)

Great Blue Heron, South Natick, MA May 23, 2012
(charcoal, conté pencil)

Here's a quick sketch of the Great Blue Heron using the water
and the natural buoyancy of the fish to position it in his mouth.
I came to the dam today and the heron was back at work. Maybe this will be his summer hunting ground.

When I approached, he flew over to the safety of the island but was soon prowling the currents in the middle of the river. A mother and her young child observed from the railing. After they left to look for frogs and turtles, the heron caught a truly large fish; a bass or trout that must have been 12-14 inches long. Somehow, it managed to position the fish just so and in one long protracted gulp, swallowed it. It looked a little stunned as gravity allowed breakfast to slide down to the harsh chemical factory that is a heron's stomach.

Because of some driftwood lodged at the top of the dam this Spring, an eddy has formed at the base of the dam. Fish congregate here before attempting to scale the dam. If the heron doesn't eat them all, a few will discover the fish ladder (in the background) and spawn further upstream.
(charcoal, conté pencil)

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