Friday, August 29, 2014


Chinese Pond-heron (Photo by my brother!) 

Quite a while ago, I was out on a rowboat in a lake. Not just any lake: a deep, muck-filled, clam-chocked brown-water lake that many people were swimming and fishing in. Personally, I don't like swimming in muddy, murky lakes but apparently those people did.

 As I was rowing out, I spotted some white birds far off wheeling in the air that looked suspiciously like terns. They were hovering and grabbing for fish like a tern would do, except something was very amiss about their behavior.  The white birds lacked the powerful grace of a tern, blundering and flapping down slowly to the water like an elephant with wings would.  And they snatched fish from the surface. 

No self-respecting tern would ever try to catch fish like they did.

They turned out to be Black-crowned  Night-herons.

Initially, I was astonished but after exactly 53 seconds, I thought to myself, "What's new about herons doing that? Ardeidae are SMART and ADAPTABLE! Remember that viral video on YouTube?"

(Ardeidae is a family of clunky adorable ninja birds that includes herons, egrets, and bittern. 

Pronounced AR-DIE-DAY, or maybe AR-DI-A-DA, or whatever. Who knows how to pronounce those names anyway?)

Maybe you remember that viral video on YouTube where a Green Heron used bread to lure and devour unsuspecting little fish.

As it turns out, in their maddening efforts to get enough fishy food to constitute a decent meal, Ardeidae (herons, bitterns, egrets) are surprisingly clever.

This guy sat like this for hours. I'm shocked that he/she doesn't have serious back and neck cramps yet.

Above photo: Sometimes a egret or heron will sit with half of their beak open in the water and close it when it touches something, like a stationary skimmer. Most of the time, they get a minnow or two. The unfortunate ones get serious back problems.

Other methods Ardeidae commonly use:

 1. Dancer

Really impatient Ardeidae, like the Reddish Egret, want to have some fun while working instead of just standing there and watching like a boring egret would.

Ready.... set....


Snowy Egret in foreground: "What is wrong with this guy?"

2 . Every Day They're Shuffling

Ever see herons and egrets scuffling in the mud? They're using this method to try to and lure fish  in with their maddening dance skills. In reality though, most of those birds wouldn't make it on the first couple rounds of Ardeidae's Got Talent! 

Or..... maybe they're just trying to stir up fish and other aquatic animals. I still prefer my theory though. 

3. The Average-John Egret/Heron

"I'm watching for fish. Don't disturb me."

** 3 hours later **

** One day later **


If Great Blue Herons were as large as dinosaurs, I'd be terrified of them. They're deadly in the water and out. Ever seen a heron in a grassy field and think "Hmmm, I wonder why that heron is not by the water. He's probably sniffing the beautiful flowers and having fun in the grass "?

Mr. Heron isn't by the water because he's probably stabbing and swallowing gophers. 

 On rare occasions, herons have been recorded gobbling up other unwary large organisms, like kingfishers. Heck, one was even reported to have ambushed and consumed an entire Little Grebe.

Less qualified assassins, like the Malayan Night-heron, stick to earthworms.

This juvenile Malayan Night-heron forgot to wash his bill again after dinner. 

Looks like his parent forgot too. 

4. Jurassic Park Status

Some conniving, clever, conspiring Ardeidae, including the familiar Green and Great Blue Herons, utilize bread, leaves. and sticks in their hunting efforts.
It's quite simple. They place the bait in the water and wait for the droves of fish to come.
In particular cases they waggle it in a Leaf Dance to hypnotize and stun the fish with the power of Dark Heron Magic.

Happy Birding,


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(The East Asia trip report is under construction!) 

Sunday, August 3, 2014


WARNING: Following post contains no pictures and lots of text. Readers who are easily bored may spontaneously erupt at the reading of this post. Proceed at your own risk. 


Some of you more astute readers may have observed the recent lack of blog posts. Fear not, I haven't abandoned this project (and will likely not for a while yet!).

For the past 7-9 days I have been busy on a family vacation in Taiwan with my mom (it has quickly turned into a birding expedition with quick stops at more bird-y areas on the side of the road, as all family vacations nowadays do!) and will not be back to my beloved ABA birding area until the end of August. 

For you curious folks, the typical counts of a birdy day here are somewhat like this:

1938479173019328401938502 Eurasian Tree Sparrows
1 Black Drongo
1 Oriental Turtle-dove
1 Plain Prinia
1 Common Mynah
0.5 Kentish Plover

...and so on and so forth. You get the idea.

Things are a lot...different... in East Asia in terms of weather and of course time zone. Right now in cozy, DRY California it's around 9-10:00 P.M. Most of you are probably brushing your teeth, petting your pet unicorn, and jumping up and down on rainbows. Maybe you more avid birders are going out for an owling session (actually, I don't know anyone who goes owling at this time of the year). 

Meanwhile in 12:10 humid Taiwan I'm sweating my skin off. Every time I step outside it's like walking into the mouth of a sweating lion in Florida while wearing stockings, an analogy to which I'm sure most of you can relate. 

Although summer is a "dead," season for birds in East Asia, I will still be doing a trip report! Don't worry, it won't be uninteresting and include boring long descriptions and lists of every single ant, leaf, and Eurasian Tree Sparrow I saw there. I'll sparrow you that bit!

 Unfortunately, the free wifi provided in the local 7-11s and Family Marts is so slow that it takes about six hours (NO exaggeration here) for a single one of my 3-5 MB photos to upload on normally speedy Imgur, so to post a trip report right now right here is out of the question. 

Heck, it'll probably take 30 minutes for the internet server to process this post. 

So I  (sincerely)  apologize for what has been and will be a prolonged absence of activity on my blog- followers, regular readers, highly intelligent literary Eurasian Tree Sparrows, whoever. 

McHappy Birding,

-cĥìçĉâdèé ( Try and pronounce THAT!)