Posts tagged “Great Blue Heron

Sutro Sam (take one)

Those of us in the Bay Area who pay attention to such things are aware that a River Otter dubbed “Sutro Sam” has taken up residence at the Sutro Baths. River Otters are fantastic creatures. They are cute, but they can take down Pelicans and pull gulls under the surface… I love that about them, their adorable yet ferocious character.

Sam spends his days in and around the pool, sometimes preening on the grass, sometimes hiding in the rocks. He has gotten pretty familiar with the throngs of visitors and often approaches dogs who are led down into the baths. I heard a tale of one guy who brought his dog down there to play with Sam because he thought the otter was lonely.

Here is a glimpse at those sharp little teeth. Sam eats a lot of fish, but crayfish, amphibians, and birds are also on the menu. Problem is, catching birds is tough, and Sam is a young male who hasn’t quite figured out how to go after the larger prey yet.

Here he is venturing out to try his luck. At Rodeo Lagoon in the Marin Headlands, there is a group of 4 otters (down from 7) that have better luck hunting birds. It is thought that one of the 3 that have disappeared was the most experienced hunter. It wasn’t uncommon to find the carcasses of Pelicans along the shores of the lagoon. I have posted about their predatory predilections HERE.

Is is amazing to watch him glide through the water. The motion is seemingly effortless and highly graceful.

Here he is sneaking up on some Coots. He is a clumsy stalker though and they always seem to get away in plenty of time. One of these days he’ll get it right.

Better settle for some fish instead.

The Great Blue Heron seems to like following Sam around and shows little fear. I bet the fleeing fish make for easy pickings but the relationship could eventually turn sour. The otters in the Headlands have been seen stalking and attempting to catch herons too.

For now, all is peaceful. The heron continues untroubled and Sam continues to delight all those who pay a visit. If you do go down, enjoy the show but respect his space. It is a real priviledge to see a wild River Otter in such close proximity.

Check out the Rodeo Lagoon Otters HERE.

Great Blue Heron Pellet

Great Blue Herons are basically birds of prey. They love a gopher or two or six. And like Hawks and Owls, they too cough up pellets of indigestible material. Ladies and gentlemen, I present you…

…a Great Blue Heron pellet. Yeah, I know gross (but fascinating too). I picked it apart… it was pretty much all gopher fur and a couple insect exoskeletons.

New Post at 10,000 Birds

Fly on over to 10,000 Birds to get a dose of Everyday Sunshine with Great Blue Herons.

Proceed at Your Peril

**BE WARNED… this one is going to get gruesome y’all.

Raptors look as raptors do because raptors do what raptors do. They kill things daily. They look fierce because that brow ridge protects their precious eyes during all manner of prey related entanglements. That down-curved bill tapering to a point makes short work of anything that resembles flesh.

“they look so regal…” “they look so dignified and proud…” “they look so cool”

Yup, they look that way because they are predators. IF YOU ARE SQUEAMISH TURN BACK NOW. SERIOUSLY. Two pictures down is a mouse getting its head and face removed. No joke.

A Red-tailed Hawk doesn’t have the slightest thing resembling mercy. It has a thing called hunger, and it must be satisfied. Cue head and face removal photo…

There is no caption that can fix this.

This girl Cooper’s Hawk is too young to hunt on her own so she gets meals delivered by her parents.

The adults often prepared the food by removing the feathers and head (a commission for the hunt). Any guesses on dinner? House Sparrow? House Finch?

Red-shouldered Hawk looking regal? Noble? Dignified?

Here it is eating a freshly caught pigeon. It worked on it for a long… long time.

This is all that remained.

All that pigeon now resides in the hawk’s crop and it is not a flattering look. I honestly wondered if it could even fly.

The answer was no… it could only waddle up into a tree and sit for hours. How’s that for dignified?

I’ll leave you with another fairly intense image of another bird of prey – the fiendishly cold-blooded Great Blue Heron.

Two Gophers – Two Minutes

Step 1: Catch a gopher.

Step 2: Shake well.

Step 3: Ingest head first.

Step 4: Notice a second gopher in the same burrow.

Step 5: Repeat.

Great Blue at Night

Crissy Field, San Francisco, CA.

Heron and Fish

A kinetic sculpture I made a few years ago in my little kitchen shop. The song is an old tune of mine called Mars.

Afternoon Snack

Or make that a full meal. A Great Blue Heron at Crissy Field trying to figure out what to do next.

On Alert

A Great Blue Heron at Crissy Field needs to stay sharp amongst the roaming off-leash dogs.

Great Blue Departure

Birds of Prey

Don’t be mistaken, Great Blues are as fierce as any raptor. Evidentiary images follow that are not for the faint of heart.




20110910-100732.jpgGreat Egrets are close cousins and have the same predatory predilections.

Urban Birds Part Three

A Great Blue Heron on alert at Crissy Field with the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance.

This isn’t a paid advertisement… just a striking convergence of flying objects.

A young Redtail finds a convenient perch for gopher hunting.

Another Redtail sees something tasty in the grass and fully commits.

Bumper to bumper traffic. Watching a Redtail cruising along the road at an altitude of three feet always makes me nervous… but they don’t seem to mind.

As we leave the city and close the Urban Birds series… we see a Peregrine perched on the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Urban Birds Part Two

Close encounters can happen almost anywhere in San Francisco.

As a photographer I’m happy and amazed at how comfortable some birds get in an urban setting. In the countryside it is a simple matter to relocate but the city offers limited green space and the birds learn to figure out what the real threats are.

Alta Plaza Park used to be a great spot to see hunting hawks up close but I think things have changed. It used to have a resident Redtail every year but I haven’t seen one lately.



This image may be a repost but it fits with the theme and is one of my favorites. This is a Red-shouldered Hawk hunting rats in the Presidio.

It isn’t just raptors that reside in the city. Great Blue Herons are another “bird of prey” that make a living here too. (CLICK HERE) More tomorrow…

Predation Series #9

This Great Blue Heron looks nonchalant as it swings a gopher into position to swallow it head first.

Predation Series #8

A Great Blue Heron dips a large gopher into the water to help it go down a bit easier.