At one point we rode up on a small group of people standing on the shoreline who appeared to be watching something out in the bay. As we slowly approached I saw it… a Great Blue Heron only 50 feet from the shore in shallow water — with a large fish in it’s beak. Cool! Well, at least it was cool for the Heron… not so cool for the fish!
Herons eat by catching small fish and swallowing them whole. They don’t, and they can’t, tear a fish apart into bite sized chunks like an eagle or osprey can. They can only swallow them in one piece… in one gulp. Well I don’t know a lot about a Heron’s capabilities in this regard but I severely doubted that this Heron would ever be able to get that fish down it’s long slender throat. It just seems there are certain laws of physics that can’t be broken. But not because the Heron didn’t try. Oh no! We stood there for 20 minutes watching the show and try as it might, the Heron just couldn’t open up far enough to get it in.
The fish was so large the Heron, a few times, got noticably tired of holding it up and slowly dropped it’s head to rest.
Eventually theory and reality collided. In theory: Heron’s eat fish and they eat them in one gulp… this is a fish… so this fish should be this Heron’s lunch. In reality: size matters. Eventually, the Heron, with great disappointment on his little face, gave up the fish. I swear I could see a tear running down his cheek. He put it down and slowly, deliberately, walked away… looking for a more reasonably sized lunch. You know there was going to be a fish story that evening at the Heron Happy Hour… about the one that got away.
There’s a lesson here for all of us.