Sunny, smoldering heat, a quiet marshy backdrop interrupted by the occasional passing tourist. In other words, a very typical March morning in South Florida. Until the atypical happened.
These photos were taken at a wonderful spot in Delray Beach, Florida called The Green Cay Wetlands. It is a protected area where wildlife thrives and regularly puts on a show for the photographers that come searching for something special. Hawks. alligators, bitterns, and waterfowl of all shapes and sizes call this area home for much of the year.
On this particular day I was enjoying the boardwalk that circumnavigates the wetlands hoping to see a spoonbill, or a northern harrier. As awful as it may sound, the herons and the ibis become a little monotonous when you see them everyday, and I find it easy to overlook these magnificent birds when in the search of something a little more elusive. However, on March 1, 2012 - this particular Great Blue Heron made me rethink my subject material.
About 20 yards away, I heard a disturbance in the tall grass. Sure enough there was a Great Blue moving his head about in a more aggressive manner then usual. These gentle giants like to sit as still and quietly as possible as to draw their prey in close. As I looked closer, his beak appeared a bit 'larger' or mangled, perhaps a deformity? But closer inspection revealed a coiled snake writhing and moving around the 12 inch beak. The Heron hopped and jumped and took a small flight (closer to me, thankfully) where he could deal with his breakfast conundrum with more effectiveness.
The stalemate lasted about 15 minutes, with the stubborn snake refusing to let go. The Heron changed his technique thrashing his head about, banging the snake on the ground until it's grip eventually began to wane. As the snake's grip loosened, I found my grip on the camera tighten - my Nikon d7000 firing like a machine gun.
In the end, the snake became wounded, and tired. The Heron gulped down the snake like that last delicious string of spaghetti. He hopped off and returned to where the scene started, hoping the next meal would be a little more cooperative.