Dicromantispa interrupta

Dicromantispa interrupta

Monday, February 9, 2015

Great Blue Heron Method for Eating Catfish

The camera trap last night produced nothing, a surprise considering that it has videoed wildlife every night since being set out. Perhaps the critters are tired of dried instant rice, or maybe they aren’t interested in tomato peelings and spoiled blueberries. New bait is in order – more banana chips at the very least will be set out tonight.

But the day’s Orange Lake wildlife viewing has started out much better. While on telephone hold, I noticed a Great Blue Heron standing on the bank maybe 50 yards from me, so I put binoculars on it to see why it was not in the marsh. The bird had a 6- or 7-inch brown bullhead (Amieurus nebulosus) in its mouth. While I watched, the heron dropped the fish, turned it over belly up, and used its beak to stab into the head through the fish’s softer chin. Each stab involved the top and bottom bills slightly agape, so that it actually made two wounds with each thrust. This happened repeatedly, with the fish slowly showing less and less life over time.

Ordinarily, we see a heron snag a fish and swallow it right away, but the catfish’s three long spines prevent quick ingestion and the poison gland at the base of each spine is also a deterrent. After 15 or 20 minutes of this, the fish was lifeless and the heron began pecking at the bases of the spines to break them. It returned to the water several times during the procedure to wash off dirt and grass adhering to the fish’s sticky skin. After killing the fish and removing its spines, the heron returned to the lake to wash it one last time and then swallowed it.

Contrast this heron’s method of removing catfish spines to that of a Double-Crested Cormorant I reported on February 22, 2008 at tinyurl.com/lljuy2o.

I figured the heron would loaf for a while to wait for the fish to pass through the gizzard, but no, it went right back out to forage for more prey, catching another little victim or two:

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Orange Lake Camera Trapping - February

My place beside Orange Lake is immediately adjacent to open water and myriad vegetation cover types, primarily emergent shallow marsh, floating vegetation mats, and shrub swamp. Plant life here is rich in terms of stem density and the number of species, both of which are mirrored by wildlife, so I am expecting to photograph a lot of lakeside fauna with my Moultrie game camera.

I got spoiled by wild animals while camera trapping in North Carolina, getting photos and videos of the whitetail deer, coyote, gray fox, raccoon, opossum, gray squirrel, and common crow. There was even the drama of a family of raccoons usurping the bait from a feisty but outnumbered opossum. Unfortunately, the black bear seen several times in the yard was never caught on camera, but maybe that’s a good thing because these incredibly strong omnivores are famous for tearing up game cameras.

I have not yet photographed a native predator here in Florida this season until yesterday, getting only the cotton rat, opossum, raccoon, Northern Cardinal and an unidentified sparrow. The black racer on my porch that I previously posted about I saw once at the camera station, but it has not yet been videoed. This morning, a feral cat came to the bait station and ate some dried instant rice that was used as bait:

I used several kinds of vegetative baits over the last two weeks, such as rice, pineapple spears, cherry tomatoes, and dried banana chips. The latter are the herbivores’ favorite, containing fiber, sugar, oil, and carbohydrates, but cats are obligate carnivores. Notice also how dull and matted its coat looks. Notice also the look in its eyes; they are not at all the docile eyes of a house cat, but neither are they the truly wild eyes of a bobcat or coyote. Also, although the animal is feral, it is not skinny, indicating it is obtaining sufficient food from somewhere. Perhaps the other food subsidy contains rice or other starches like potatoes?

But this feral cat is far from secure. Around sunup this morning, I heard a bunch of coyotes howling off in the distance. I bet the cat heard them, too.