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An Amateur's Guide to the Forests, Fields and Skies: Heron dines al fresco at Lower Bottle Lake

This is Shirley Cordahl's regular guest, heading up the stairs of her deck. (Submitted photo)1 / 2
Betty Norlin took this photo of Hellkamps Creek in Hubbard County. (Submitted photo)2 / 2

Shirley Cordahl submitted a doozy of a question.

"I live on Lower Bottle Lake," she writes. "On Saturday the 12th, I looked out my window & couldn't believe my eyes, there was a blue heron on my deck. I went to get my camera & when I came back I could see it was stalking something. I was thinking frogs. Right after I took the second picture, real quick, he poked his head under the deck and came out with my chipmunk in his beak. He had the chipmunk around the neck. He walked over towards the woods, and was shaking the chipmunk, I could see the chipmunk was still alive. He then walked down to the lake. Do you suppose he drowned the chipmunk? Then ate him? The heron has been back several times."

Shirley submitted several photos, but the one of the heron shaking the chipmunk was too blurry to use. And maybe not suitable for a large audience even if it wasn't. It's pretty grisly.

From all the research, it doesn't appear herons drown their prey before ingesting it, but if readers have some additional insight, send it on.

Their primary food sources are fish, crabs, aquatic insects and rodents. But they've also been known to snatch up small mammals, reptiles, birds and other creatures. I've seen herons with small snapping turtles in their beaks and frogs skewered onto their beak ends like shish-ke-bobs. I've seen them swoop down and grab a fish so large out of the lake they eventually dropped it. Anglers, of course, get incensed when the birds catch bigger fish than humans.

But the point is, herons swallow their food whole, sometimes even choking on the prey when their eyes are bigger than their stomachs.

It would seem that by carrying the chipmunk down to the water's edge, that may have just been a preferred dining spot rather than the deck.

Herons seem to like wading and eating. They didn't have mothers that made them wait an hour before diving in.

Since I live on Lower Bottle, I'm wondering if I could borrow Shirley's heron to shake a few of the gray squirrels plundering my "squirrel-proof" bird feeders.

Bobbi Held, Linda Smith and Judy Love reported a mama loon on Big Mantrap Lake with triplet chicks.

Last year DNR loon specialist Pam Perry told us triplets aren't as rare as one might think, but their survival is. Sometimes the mothers just have too many beaks to feed and abandon one, or the chicks themselves fight over dominance and food, thinking nothing of eliminating the competition.

Send your sightings to

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

(218) 732-3364