Down on the marshes there is a grey heron who is usually around the main lake. He was there the other day and had caught something he was struggling to swallow. On looking through my binoculars I saw that he had caught an eel and was a bit confused as to what to do. I got the camera out and snapped away at the events to follow.
The eel wrapped itself around the herons beak and thrashed around so much that the heron dropped it on the ground. The eel tried to make a mad dash for the water but before it could even get to the waters edge the heron scooped it back up. He managed to get the eel, tail first down his throat.
Swallowing a live animal, particular an eel tail first is not a good move. It allows the animal to move around and head for freedom. The eel succeeded and emerged from the herons beak like a giant tongue. After much more struggling the heron managed to turn the eel around head first and swallow it. It never came back up a second time.
I have seen grey herons capture prey items which I would not normally have seen. This one with the eel, one at Radipole lake in Dorset caught a water vole, and in Portugal one caught a crayfish. All three prey species where new sightings. Its worth watching these birds to glimpse a new (but about to be eaten) species
|Capturing the eel|
|Dropping the eel|
|Turing the eel around|