A Little Patience

I stopped by  the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in southwest Washington on my way home from work a couple of days ago. It's a regular place that I check out with my camera on random days with short notice since it's on my way home from work and has a lot of wildlife activity. This last visit provided me with a pretty crazy bird photo opportunity; a blue heron feeding on a garter snake, and the garter snake fought back. 

I spotted the bird hunting a patch of tall grass washed in warm sunlight. I decided to stop and watch the bird for a while since they often find snakes when the springtime sun is out and warming the ground. The heron trudged along for about 25 min without making any strikes, I was starting to get a cramp in my arm from trying to hold my lens motionless, I was really hoping it would find something soon or I was going to have to move and possibly disturb the bird and ruin my chance at catching a prey event.

Finally, it heard something in the grass. It began doing what I call the, "death dance," that herons and egrets often do as they are sizing up and aiming at a prey item. The bird struck and came up with a medium sized garter. I was already super stoked to be close to a heron grabbing a snake, then realized this snake was not going to simply take a few shakes and allow himself to be swallowed. He took a couple of wild strikes at the heron's face all glancing off the base of the bird's beak. Then the snake seemed to gain his composure, even though he was being crushed mid-body. He raised his head, stared the heron in the face to take aim for a brief moment, then lunged for the eye of the predatory bird.

Just as the snake struck, the heron began another violent shake and played right into the snake's aim. The snake latched onto the eyeball of the heron for a brief moment then became locked onto the eyelid of the billed beast!

After a few gentle attempts at removing the snake in a safe, delicate manner, the heron panicked and had to shake the snake off. Needless to say the heron was victorious in the end and enjoyed its meal, but damn did that snake show some heart.