Mission: To promote the appreciation of wildlife and increase harmony between humanity and nature.

On Instagram: @unionbaywatch

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Dragon Master

Monday the sky was clear and the sun shone brightly in Seattle. My kayak slid quietly into Kingfisher Cove as The Pirate watched for prey.
Even with the strong wind blowing out of the northwest it was great to be out and about the bay. On the north side, near Yesler Swamp, a Cooper's Hawk made a pass at a noisy Kingfisher. The Kingfisher became suddenly silent as it darted away. The hungry Cooper's Hawk circled slowly, looking for other opportunities, but the wind was so strong the Cooper's circles became a series of lower case "e"s as it was blown out over the bay towards Madison Park.

Wanting to check on Eva and Albert, e.g. the 520 eagles, I followed the same path thinking it would be an easy row with the wind at my back. About half way across the bay I realized that if I slowed my paddling the wind would turn the kayak sideways and along with the rolling waves it would toss me into the drink. I decided to keep paddling. The eagles were not to be seen near 520 so I slid into the protection of the canal south of Foster Island and headed back toward Kingfisher Cove. About halfway back I spotted the eagles, momentarily, as the wind blew them across the northern end of Foster Island.

Returning to Kingfisher Cove I found a warm, wise heron preening in the sun below a row of trees that offered shelter from the wind. 

Some spots are harder to reach than others but luckily the heron is equipped with a neck that  is proportional to its beak.

A number of dragonflies were also attracted to the shelter and warmth along the northern side of the cove. Feeling the need to feed the heron starts to take notice.

The dragonflies dart and dash from one point to the next causing the heron to twist and turn while trying to track their tricky maneuvers.

After a while the heron begins walking along the shore... 

in an attempt to catch them by surprise.

The heron snips...

...and snaps.

A very brave and red dragonfly tries playing "Catch the Tiger by the Tail".
Did you notice the dragonfly in the previous photo?

It is perched "safely" on the heron's back while the heron, ironically, is searching for dragonflies.

In the end the heron starts making contact. Out of a dozen attempts the heron successfully detains about half of the dragonflies.

It turns out that the process of transferring a "caught" dragonfly to your tummy is a bit tricky.

They also twist...

...and turn.

Prudently the heron closes the nictitating membranes over its eyes to protect them from the flailing of the dragonfly.

Ultimately the heron detained six dragonflies and successfully consumed three during a period of about a half hour. It makes one wonder if the heron gained as much energy as it spent. (It reminds me of eating celery.) Still the heron was not fighting the wind as it walked back and forth along the sunny side of the cove. 

Maybe for herons a dragonfly is a delectable delicacy and it is the taste not the calories that make them worth the effort...that and earning the title of "Dragon Master".

Have a great day on Union Bay...where nature lives in the city!


PS: The Friends of Yesler Swamp included one of my photos on the their site last week. Curiously, the photo is also of a Great Blue Heron with a dragonfly. The photo was taken a couple of years ago and I thought it was a once in a lifetime experience, until this week. 

The work being done at Yesler Swamp deserves mention, support and a visit. The Friends of Yesler Swamp have been installing native vegetation and are creating a very nice boardwalk trail. Off the top of my head I remember seeing Cooper's Hawks, Sharp Shinned Hawks, Western Grebes, Green Herons, Bald Eagles, Kingfishers and many, more common birds around Yesler Swamp. In the last year or so a Beaver has even built a lodge there. Thanks to the FOYS it is truly a place where nature lives in the city!


On another note and just for fun here are a few mushroom photos from the Arboretum.


  1. Thanks again. The herons are so beautiful and your pictures really bring that home. Always a pleasure.

    1. You are welcome. I am glad you enjoyed the photos! :-)

  2. I am a birder who learns from your photographs and your narration. Thank you. You are very talented.


    1. Thank you for your kind comments. I am glad you find value in my efforts.

  3. Larry, I loved this post! What a great story you weave with your marvelous photos! I always enjoy reading your blog.


  4. Trileigh,
    Thank you! I enjoyed the photos of the White Pelican on Natural
    Presence. Next time you have one over in West Seattle please send it our direction. :-)
    I have yet to see my first one.

  5. I just love your posts. Sharon

    1. Thank you! It is always great to get positive feedback.

  6. I'm glad to see a shout-out to the Friends of Yesler Swamp and their great work.

    1. For an interesting sequence from Yesler Swamp you might want to check the March 2012 post about a Cooper's and a Wigeon. It is truly a wonderful place to visit and all the hard work is certainly paying off. Way to go FOYS!