Thursday, March 15, 2018

Fish fry for the long-legged waders

Before sunrise on March 9, clouds hung low over the lake:

Clouds over lake 3-20180309

The rising Sun briefly broke through the cloud cover to illuminate the Pine Bank on the far end of the Wet Prarie, but rain never materialized:

Pine Bank at dawn 02-20180309

During times of high water, the lake spills over into the Wet Prairie. Normally the water begins to recede after the end of summer. Lake levels have been unusually high for the past three years.

The entire prairie was still inundated in December, 2016

Wet prairie on foggy morning 20161208

In October of 2017 the lake remained fairly high, but the water was confined to a slough created by an ATV trail.

Margin of wet prairie 20171031

On March 6th the lakeside marshes had nearly dried up, trapping many fishes which did not escape before being blocked off from the lake. The concentration of prey attracted herons, opossums, Bobcats, raccoons and even venomous Cottonmouth Water Moccasins, which subsist largely on carrion:

Water low at Wet Prairie 20180307

It was only a few minutes after sunrise, and the sun had not yet touched a little residual pool in the Wet Prairie. It was teeming with tiny life forms as evidenced by the ripples they created on the surface of the water.

I assumed that the larger fish had long ago escaped back into the lake or met their fate with predators and scavengers. Behind, they left their eggs and offspring to await an inevitable fate. It will probably be entirely dry within a week.

As I scanned the prairie, an immature Little Blue Heron flew in and settled atop a small Pond Cypress tree:

Little Blue Heron roosting 06-20180306

The heron's plumage might look as if soiled, but it is transitioning from its white immature plumage to the dark blue of an adult:

Little Blue Heron roosting 03-20180306

The "Little Blue" flew down to the pool, now appearing as liquid gold,
reflecting the winter foliage in warm light. The heron immediately spotted its prey:

Little Blue Heron immature 06-20180306

Little Blue Heron immature 05-20180306

I recognized its catch as the tiny fry of the introduced Mayan Cichlid, one of the most common fish species in south Florida canals and lakes:

Little Blue Heron immature 04-20180306

This fish is noted as a protective parent, defending its eggs and fry for several weeks, until their offspring grow to about 2 cm (3/4 inch).  These babies appear to be a bit larger and were probably abandoned when the adults either escaped to open water or perished  in the isolated pools or were taken by predators.

Little Blue Heron immature 02-20180306

Native to Mexico and Central America, Mayan Cichlids are a good food source and most likely escaped from south Florida fish farms about 30-40 years ago.They can survive low oxygen levels but succumb if temperatures drop to near freezing.

A Tricolored Heron suddenly flew in to join in the feast:

Tricolored Heron 04-20180306

Tricolored Heron 03-20180306

Tricolored Heron 01-20180306

Tricolored Heron 02-20180306

The two species fed together amicably:



Tricolored and Little Blue Herons 01-20180306

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy

Linking to WEEKEND REFLECTIONS by James

Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Our World Tuesday by Lady Fi

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart

Linking to Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) by NC Sue

Linking to ALL SEASONS by Jesh

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Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display

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21 comments:

  1. some startling great photos here. Kudos.

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  2. I especially like that first shot.

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  3. The heron in flight is a wonderful capture! Beautiful colors and perfect focus.

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  4. The bird reflections are superb!

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  5. Love the first shot and the heron is amazing! Have a good weekend.

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  6. Hello, love sky shots. The waders are all beautiful. Love the reflection and flight shots. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post. Thanks also for the comment and visit. Happy Saturday, enjoy your weekend!

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  7. Wonderful post! I love herons and you sure got some great shots!

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  8. I like your header image. Apprently awkward and funny!

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  9. The prairie marshes are so pretty and I love your herons!

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  10. The photo series makes me feel the atmosphere in the nature. Beautiful!

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  11. Hi stranger, oh Ken where have you been that I have missed seeing the beauty until now...these are all outstanding as always your work is, Hope that you are doing well~

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  12. Too bad the marshes will soon be dry. The reflection is perfect, Ken! Now I've seen the tri-colored heron on your blog, it's definitely one of my favorite birds - in color and stature! Many thanks for sharing these with All Seasons and have a great week!

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  13. I've never seen an immature heron - very interesting.
    Thanks for linking up at https://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2018/03/the-beautiful-biltmore-estate.html

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  14. Such wonderful scenery! Thanks so much for your heron images and the information about the plumage.

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  15. I love your description of the water as liquid gold - it does look exactly like that! And offers incredible reflections of your subjects ... I enjoyed your narrative, leading us to the inevitable conclusion. Well written!

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  16. Your pictures of the heron were just magnificent! They must be so much fun to watch.

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  17. The Wet Prairie is beautiful! Love the pretty herons. Great photos!

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