Reader’s wildlife video

It’s been a while since we heard from Tara Tanaka, but she’s back with a lovely video called “One fine morning in my backyard blind” (her Vimeo page is here and her Flickr page here). There’s a substantial description (indented):

The water has been low in our cypress swamp for months now, but is holding unusually stable. The water line is now a few hundred feet farther from the house than normal, and the water level is ideal for wading birds, but still deep enough to float an otter. A few weeks ago, I put a photo blind right on the edge of water, close to ‘gator island’ where I’d seen the otter marking a scent post a couple of weeks before. On a 33-degree Florida morning I set up in the blind before sunrise and waited to see what would appear. It was a spectacular winter morning. The order of the video is the order that that nature’s play unfolded before me – almost five hours condensed into about four minutes.

Before the fog had lifted, the otter arrived at gator island to freshen up his scent post, and as quickly as he’d appeared, he was gone. As the morning went on, I saw him many times, and it was almost always our “winter” Great Blue Heron that would alert me to his location. I’ve seen one species of bird follow another species to take advantage of prey that is flushed by the feeding of the bird being followed, but this otter is the first non-bird I remember seeing that birds follow to look for flushed prey. We have a number of birds – exactly one of each species – that stay here in the winter: a Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron and an Anhinga. Our winter Little Blue Heron seemed really excited to have a couple of Wood Storks back in the swamp – the first ones in months – and he followed them closely. The fuzzier-headed Stork was likely fledged here last year, and the older one, probably 2 or 3 years old, may have also fledged from our swamp in the last few years. We haven’t had Canada Geese in months, and on this morning three separate groups landed in the water not far from me, and I think that their “decoy effect” was probably responsible for the comfort of the other birds, especially during hunting season. Only one pair of our regular Wood Ducks was visible.

The first female Great Blue Heron of the season arrived on this morning and landed in a cypress near me, and our winter Great Blue landed below her and examined the new arrival from a distance.

Late in the morning the otter appeared again in what’s left of a shallow sink hole, and as he looked for prey he suddenly stepped on the gas and zoomed around almost faster than the Great Blue and I could follow him. Numerous times the otter would almost run into the Great Blue and he would fly at the last second to keep from being hit.

I’ve spent three more mornings in the blind since this day, and have hardly seen a thing, but nesting season is just around the corner.

Be sure to watch it on “enlarged”. The video—and the accompanying music—are peaceful and soothing, there is a sleek otter, and be sure not to miss the wood ducks who make a cameo appearance. (Nesting season is coming, and that means ducklings!)

11 Comments

  1. RGT
    Posted January 21, 2020 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    Beautiful work Tara!

  2. Posted January 21, 2020 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Tara, thank you for a stunningly beautiful way to start my day!

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted January 21, 2020 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      Yes, a great way to start the day!

      Are those large birds at the beginning of the video wood storks? And is the smaller gray one a little blue heron, hanging with the storks to let them do the work of stirring up the grub?

  3. GBJames
    Posted January 21, 2020 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    Great stuff!

  4. Debra Coplan
    Posted January 21, 2020 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    That was quite a show! Thank you for such a wonderful video. The music was incredible too.

  5. Posted January 21, 2020 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Thank you to everyone for your kind words. I have you all in mind when I’m editing a video.

    Yes Jenny, those are wood storks with the little blue heron following every move. I don’t think there were any scenes included in the final video, but I did record the heron grabbing food items as he followed the storks.

    • rickflick
      Posted January 21, 2020 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Tara. Looks like the storks feed by feel, while the heron uses vision.

      • Posted January 21, 2020 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

        Yes, exactly. The storks walk with their open beaks in the water and shuffle their feet to get prey into their beak, and then as soon as something swims in their beak closes. I don’t know if it’s learned or a natural reflex, but I do know it’s fast!

        I just watched the Great Blue hunt on the outskirts of where the otter is hunting, and he grabbed a large (2-3lb.) carp and swallowed it, unfortunately before I could get my scope and run outside. We had no idea that there were carp in the swamp.

        • rickflick
          Posted January 21, 2020 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

          I think carp are almost everywhere. 😎

  6. Andrea Kenner
    Posted January 21, 2020 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    So beautiful! The video is so crisp and clear!


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