Sony F717 digital, handheld.
48.5mm focal length (35mm equiv. 190mm) at f4
ISO 100
1/250 second
Only in Florida
great blue heron strike

Here's one of the better things about Florida for a nature photographer: You often don't have to seek out photo subjects, they may simply come to you. Like this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), who cruised in over the trees and landed 12 meters (40') away, then let me creep a little closer while wading in the Indian River. After just a few minutes, I got to witness a successful lunge and capture.

But that was just an appetizer, for both the heron and myself. Keep scrolling down...

great blue heron capture
great blue heron giant fish 1

Within another minute or two, my subject had snagged a much bigger fish, surprisingly close to shore. You can see the comparison of their heads in size, in the shot at right. Definitely doesn't seem like the one is going to fit past the other.

I have been told this is a sea species known as a Hardhead Catfish (Arius felis), which explains to me how it could be caught in a saltwater estuary.

great blue heron giant fish 2
I watched the juggling taking place for quite a while, as the heron tried to get the fish in just the right position, and due to several false starts I have a whole collection of images and poses. But I was after the denouement...
great blue heron giant fish 3
great blue heron giant fish 4

Eventually, the heron managed to get the fish's head at just the right angle, and with appreciable speed, took it straight down.

And I mean speed — seven seconds to go through these last four images.

Being without teeth of any kind, most birds expect to hammer down their food whole, and grind it up in the crop afterwards. So their esophagus is made to do this.

great blue heron giant fish 5
great blue heron giant fish 6

But that doesn't stop me from wondering what that has to feel like going down.

Notice the stretching and elongating of body and neck — there's definitely some accommodating going on in there. I don't know the maximum size fish that a heron can take, but I imagine this one was pretty close to the mark.


great blue heron giant fish 7