It is early evening and the tide is going out. I head to the dock in hopes of catching the spoonbill. The Roseate is a no show this evening. Standing on the opposite bank though is “George”, the Yellow Crowned Night Heron intently staring into the water. I walk on down to the floating dock directly across from George and begin to watch him hunt for crabs.
Night Herons get fixated when they hunt. Many of us are the same way when we get involved in an activity. Fortunately for me, George seems comfortable with my close proximity and continues to hunt. Before long I see him pick a good size crab out of the stream and begin to peck on it, drop it, pick it up and eventually swallow it. I spot some crabs closer to my position and point them out to George and tell him there is another one over here. To my surprise, George appears to look at me and then proceed a few feet closer in my direction and stop and peer into the water with those intense red eyes. I see his head lower, pause and then in a quick movement his head disappears below the surface. By this time I am already on my belly with the camera just above the water pressing the doohickey. George has another crab, or the crab has him, hard to tell. He shakes his head rapidly and I see claws fly off the crab from the intense shaking. He then brings it up out of the water and begins to rotate and squeeze it, drop it, peck it and pick it up again. Flipping the crab around in the air, the heron deftly positions it in its beak and swallows it whole. Gulp! A look of pure satisfaction is on his face. Crab doesn’t get any fresher than this. George takes a few more steps towards me and gives me a look like thanks for the help. Then he saunters away looking for another, and another, and then another. I think George is starting to develop a little crab belly haunch there. By the time the “session” is over I have taken about 150 shots of George hunting crabs. As I examine them I think my camera has malfunctioned. I knew I had the focus on the eyes and thought the eyes were out of focus in some of the shots. Then I realize this is a special membrane the heron has that it pulls over and covers the eyes when the head is submerged. Birds have a special "third eyelid" in the corner of each eye close to the beak. This extra eyelid is called the nictitating (NICK-tih-tate-ing) membrane. According to one on line source “When a bird blinks, this thin sheet of skin slides across the eyeball, wiping it clean. The membranes also act as goggles to protect the bird's eyes when if flies fast or dives into water, and during fights with prey. The membranes are clear, so the bird can still see where it is going. Birds also have top and bottom eyelids. But most birds close their regular eyelids only when they go to sleep”.
Ever get so fixated on what you are doing you don’t notice or hear anything or anyone around you. Seems like George did too. But once I got his attention he seemed OK with my presence, went to where I pointing and was rewarded again. Next time your spouse tries to get your attention, just stop what you are doing and listen. Who knows, you might get a free crab sandwich too. Be Blessed. Harry