Standoff

May 22, 2021

As I began to read my paper yesterday, I looked outside to see the return of the Green Heron (Butorides virescens) who had visited last year, or at least I assume the same one.  He was up on the fence ruffling his feathers in the light rain.  The Gackle on the ground and the Cardinal on the other side of the squirrel feeder were not happy about him being there, but the Heron merely stared at them.  They were caught in a standoff.  After a few minutes, the two smaller birds flew off.  As if to acknowledge his dominance, the heron began to preen his feathers.  After making sure he looked good, the bird glided down to the side of the pool and began to look for the reason he was there, tadpoles.

I continued to read my paper but glanced up now and again to see if the heron was still there.  He would hop from one side of the pool to the other, staring intently into the algae covered water.  By now it had started to rain earnestly, but he remained unfazed.  As I looked at the whole pool, I saw one of the large frogs had hopped out of the pool and was sitting next to the steps.  The frog was large enough to not be afraid of being eaten whole, but the heron still could have easily stabbed him and taken his time on the meal.  The two obviously knew the other was there and stood deathly still facing each other for nearly thirty minutes.  Neither flinched as they held another standoff. 

The heron finally hopped to the other side of the pool and the frog disappeared back into the pool.  I had some work to do but when I came back to the kitchen, I saw the heron was still vigilant.  The small frogs and tadpoles that he had feasted on for several days last year were now doing a good job of staying hidden.  After nearly an hour and a half the heron-tadpole standoff was finally broken.  The heron hopped into the pool and came up with a tadpole in its beak.  It flapped back out of the pool, gave the tadpole a couple of flips, and swallowed it down.  I saw two more go down in quick succession.  Apparently, his Cajun diet quota of frogs had been met and he flew back to the fence.  He strutted along the fence for a while, then flew off.  I hope he comes back tomorrow.

Thoughts:  When I lived in the Bay Area there was a Crawdad Festival held out in the Sacramento River Delta.  This featured food and music and the town of 650 swelled to over 300,000 people during the three days.  The main draw was crawfish served up in two or five-pound baskets.  Another delicacy offered were frog legs.  They were expensive (even for fair food) and I only tried them once to say I had.  They had the consistency and taste of dark meat chicken (go figure).  There were always first-timers at the festival.  They would order the crawdads and then sit and stare at them, unsure what to do.  The standoff did not last too long before someone would yell a suggestion, “twist the tail and suck the heads.”  The tail popped off when twisted and contained most of the meat.  The head and body were where the juice and Cajun spices lodged in the boiled crawdad.  Like many new foods, whether a delicacy or anathema depends on the one eating.  As Andrew Zimmern always says, “If it looks good, eat it!”  Do the work.  Follow the science.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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