Thirsty Thursday

Folks,

You don’t have to go to the shore to see giant wading birds. We have them right here in our woods!

The Great Blue Heron seems to be at home in even the smallest pond damned along the streams, as long as he can find fish. Or frogs, snakes crayfish and…yes, sadly enough, rodents.

Luckily this old squirrel is a bit well-padded, I don’t think I’d fit down his gullet too well.

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Our mystery today comes to us from regular reader, Connie. Thanks, Connie!

Mystery #179

Yes, it’s those little blobs, about the size of a small acorn.

I’ll check back later for your guesses, but if you’d like a hint, scroll down:

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Hint: Connie found these on her pontoon boat.

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One brave reader guessed that these particles were the stuffing from the boat. No, but that was our first guess, too! No mice or insects were burrowing inside. This was deposited on the boat and appears nearly every morning, Connie tells us.

And every morning someone visits the boat.

Great Blue Heron on Lake Audubon Paul Hartke 2016

If the light is a bit too dim for you, here’s another photo.

Great Blue Heron on Lake Audubon

That’s a Great Blue Heron. A very old one, we believe, because his beard–the feathers trailing from his neck–is full. Now we squirrels had heard of owls regurgitating pellets of fur and bones after they eat, but not herons, so we did a bit of research. Turns out herons do as well, and it’s called “casting.”

fish bones in a Great Blue Heron casting

fish bones in a Great Blue Heron casting

If you look closely, this deposit, or regurgitation, contains small fish bones and scales!

Herons also have a throat pouch. When they have young in the nest, they swallow a fish or two and carry them back to the nest and regurgitate them for the young birds. Young birds might do the same if a predator attacks their nest to frighten it away.

Want to learn more about Great Blue Herons? The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a camera on a heron nest and answers many questions about these birds on their Bird Cam FAQ website.

Visiting Shorebirds

Lob here.Lob, the Delmarva Peninsula Fox Squirrel

Though I’ve spent a lot of my week as a Field Correspondent with The Squirrel Nutwork telling you about how my fellow endangered Delmarva Peninsula Fox Squirrels and I live out here, we aren’t the only animals on the refuge. Many birds visit us at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Er, that’s what the land was originally set aside for.

From the beaches…

gulls on the beach

To the freshwater impoundments…

Herons on freshwater impoundment

To the salt marshes…

shorebirds on the salt marshes

American Oystercatcher

To birds flying in…

Snow Geese

They use the refuge to refuel and rest before continuing on their migration.