Black-Crowned Night Heron In A Public Park — A Concentration Superstar
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Recently, I made a short expedition to Reid Park in Central Tucson. For those of you who don’t live around here, Reid Park is Tucson’s answer to New York’s Central Park. It covers several city blocks, has acres of trees and lawns, and several large ponds. It also has a zoo, a golf course, and miles of running and cycling paths. It is heavily used, particularly now, when the weather is pleasant. An acquaintance told me that I could find wildlife in the park. I was skeptical, to say the least. I found it hard to believe that any self respecting wild creature would visit a park that was so full of runners, walkers, lovers, and kids on bikes and skateboards.
I was wrong, very much so, and I’ll show just how wrong I was over the next week or so. Reid Park’s ponds were full of waterfowl, hundreds of ducks and other species. The birds were attracted by the people who fed them, the abundant standing water, and the surrounding shade trees. There were a couple of species of ducks in the park that I rarely see. The birds were quite comfortable in the presence of humans, either inured to human presence or actually attracted to people from whom they sought to cadge meals.
Among the birds that I saw in the park was a Black-Crowned Night Heron. Although not as large as a Great Blue Heron, it is nonetheless a big bird, standing about two feet tall. Night Herons have a reputation for being nocturnal feeders that sleep during the daylight hours. That certainly wasn’t the case with this bird. It was foraging in broad daylight.
Herons, including Black-crowned Night Herons, are ambush hunters. They hunt by standing completely still in shallow water or at water’s edge, waiting for a small fish, a frog, or some other aquatic creature to wander within range. Then, they strike, uncoiling their long necks with lightning speed and seizing the prey with their forceps-like beaks.
This heron was completely oblivious to the human hustle and bustle around it. It stared intently at the water as people walked within 10 feet of it. After a minute or so it shifted its position and began watching something in a crevice between two large rocks. It stood there absolutely motionless, for more than five minutes, as it peered closely into the crack. I watched a man with a very large rambunctious dog on a leash walk right behind the heron. The heron didn’t so much as twitch a muscle.
I left the bird, still staring between the rocks. I’d love to know what was down there.
Images made with a Canon 5Diii, 400 mm f4.5-5.6 ISII zoom lens+1.4x Extender, aperture priority setting, ISO 400, f8. The first image shot at 1/1000, the second at 1/640.