Ewwwwww! I know it’s nature and it natural and it’s the way stuff is supposed to be. But ewwwwwww anyway! This crawdad was so big it qualified to be an honourary lobster. And Big Bird here was your everyday, normal sized cattle egret so he wasn’t what you’d call “thick-necked” by any means. Once I saw how big dinner was and how small that neck was, I actually got ready to run to the bird’s aid if it got choked. What was I gonna do? Wait for God to tell me cuz I wasn’t trained in avian Heimlich maneouvers when I got my CPR certification. I figured either He was teaching a crash course or I was gonna get to photograph the THIRD part of the food chain coming down to gnaw on the dead bird!
Ultimately, here was no need. Biggie here realized claws were not a positive thing inside the throat so one was removed (minor ick factor) and the head was still thinking of ways out of this untenable situation so Biggie bit it (moderate ick factor). But from then on, the ick factor maxed out so don’t read any further unless you’ve got a strong (and empty) stomach. YOU ARE FOREWARNED!
Numerous bites in every direction failed to break the shell and there didn’t seem to be any urge to ‘go human’ and eat just the legs and tail. So the egret found a hard spot on the ground, possibly with a rock I couldn’t see, and proceeded to drop the crawdad repeatedly. No head shakes and no pounding or throwing motions. That eventually cracked the shell enough for the bill to pulverize the rest of the exoskeleton and…uh, …consume the juice. (You were warned, damn it!) This left the rest of the crawdad a lot thinner so after a quick drink of the hunting waters, the egret was able to semi-chew the crawdad into a swallow-able shape, base-ick-ly whole.
Relieved I wasn’t going into surgery I wouldn’t be able to film while performing (Hey, Anything For The Shot, remember?), I waited to get another one of those sweet shots of an egret flying by at eye level. Not a chance. Would you believe this sucker went back to the water and caught two more fish before I gave up on him flying??? I guess he needed to make sure there was enough in his guts to keep that broken shell’s pieces from making their departure quite an eye-opening experience.
Yolo Causeway Wetlands Preserve, between Sacramento and Davis, California
Taken with a tripod because the telephoto Nikkor lens I have doesn’t have VR (Arrgh!)
Taken with a Nikon D80 with a 70-300mm Nikkor telephoto lens so the bird was never in the slightest bit annoyed by my constant retching…
The bird’s colour is a bit warm from the morning sunlight; the colour balance is correct.
focal length: the full 33mm
Metering mode: pattern
Exposure program: manual
Exposure compensation: +1
Shot taken: 11/15/08 at 7:45am