Now the fisherman in him really takes over. Hunkering down between two rocks, he stays as still as a statue; his eyes never leave the pellet as it bobs in the water. His manner is so deliberate, his guile so amusing, his consistency so amazing, that I can’t help speculating that my heron should be added to the list of tool-using animals. And —though experts may cringe—I can’t stop believing that he is a thinking creature.
ALMOST FASTER than the eye can see, the heron strikes at his quarry. He sometimes misses, but not often. Captain Buie told me that one afternoon, within a 25-minute period, he saw my heron bait and catch two dozen fish—missing on only two occasions.
The heron grips the fish in his two-inch bill, then turns it so he can swallow it head first. Often after eating he will dip his bill in the water, then raise his head and shake it vigorously as if to help the morsel down.
One afternoon I found my heron intently watching a school of fish. He was the picture of despair. He would feint with his bill, but knew they were just out of range. I threw a pellet on the ground just to his left. He turned, looked at the pellet, looked at the fish, then picked up the bait.
HUNGRY FINGERLINGS risk capture when they swarm around the heron’s bait. The heron himself keeps a lookout for a four-footlong American crocodile that cruises the channel. Occasionally the croc sneaks underwater, intent on the feathered fisherman. But when danger comes within a few feet, my heron flies away with a loud, scolding “skeow!”
I was delighted I’d managed to experience everything about my heron. I was thankful to my lender for the safe financial aid. Let’s not forget, I was in Miami.