Little Blue Heron at a Rural Pondshore, Seen at a Summer Rekefest

Little Blue Heron at a Rural Pondshore, Seen at a Summer Rekefest

~ by James J. S. Johnson

Reddish Egret in a rural Pondshore at Summer Rekefest

Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. … Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies; these are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man. (Matthew 15:11 & 15:17-20)

Little Blue with big fish in mouth

When thinking about the eating behavior of long-legged wading birds—such as the Little Blue Heron—I remembered this proverb, spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ (in Matthew 15:11-20 & Mark 7:15-23), that observes that digestion depends upon what is put into an eater’s mouth. Whatever exits out of a mouth (whether it be words or regurgitated food!) had to have been inside, already, before it can exit! On that happy note I now remember seeing a Little Blue Heron, wading in pondshore waters.

On a pleasant Saturday, June 20th of AD2015, in Ferris, Texas – a good day for an outdoor Rekefest (shrimp feast party – more on that later!), graced by a busy host of local birds, including Black-capped Chickadees, House Finches, Cardinals, and a Little Blue Heron.
This report will focus only on the Little Blue Heron, which I then saw, wading in shallow pondshore waters. (For the geographically curious, Ferris is a city about 15 miles south of Dallas, somewhat hilly and forested, covering land in both Dallas and Ellis Counties.)

Little Blue walking through water

LITTLE BLUE HERON (Egretta caerulea, a/k/a Florida caerulea)
The Little Blue Heron is a long-legged wetland-dwelling wading bird (i.e., shorebird) of the heron/egret family, with a “summer” (March to October) breeding range that includes the eastern half of Texas.

Little Blue Map
For these herons wetland habitats are “home” – whether they be freshwater pondshores, waterlogged meadows, brackish swamps, tidal mudflats, marshlands, estuaries, ricefields, or even slow-moving streams (e.g., where waters slow down and pool at bends in the stream). Little Blue Herons build stick nests, in colonies, like other herons and egrets, in trees and shrubs. [See Roger Tory Peterson, A FIELD GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF TEXAS AND ADJACENT STATES (Houghton Mifflin, 1988), pages 16 & 28-29.]

Little Blue Heron with cache
Depending on the lighting this bird’s plumage appears mostly as bluish-grey or even a dull purplish-blue (with a maroon head and neck, sometimes with bronze-like highlighting). Their eyes are yellowish, their legs are dull (depending upon lighting, sometimes appearing yellowish-green, sometimes as pale grey-blue), and their dark necks are distinctively maroon or purplish. Unlike the Reddish Egret’s pale-pink bill (with its black tip), the Little Blue Heron has a distinctively light-blue bill (also with a black tip).

Little Blue Herons grow to about 2 feet high, with an outstretched wingspan of about 3 feet! During their juvenile stage (first year) these herons are mostly white, except for darkish wing-tips (and dull green legs). Such juveniles resemble Snowy Egrets and sometimes are permitted to mingle with the snowies.
At rest, as well as in flight, Little Blue Herons typically hold their necks in an S-curve position.

Little Blue in Flight
When the evening sun descends toward the horizon, and dusk approaches sunset, Little Blue Herons became active. At dawn, as the morning sun rises, they are likewise active. Wading into the shallow waters of a pond or the lotic pooling of brackish waters, these herons are known to spread their wings like a shady picnic umbrella, obscuring sunlight glare on the water – this enables them to better see and stalk potential prey in the shallow water – such as a frog or snake or fish.

If necessary, to catch evasive fish, these herons may dash about, chasing, in time stabbing their catch with their sharply pointed javelin-like bills. However, most of the time these herons prefer to stand still, like a statue, and wait for their meal to appear at a catchable spot in the shallow water.

Little Blue with medium fish in mouth

Snatched food is swallowed whole, digested, and indigestible parts (like bones) are expelled by regurgitation. (Fun to watch if you know what you are looking at – imagine watching a Little Blue Heron eat a crayfish, followed by disposal of the indigestible parts!)

Little Blue with a Crayfish

Also, like many other parent birds, these herons use regurgitation as a convenient mode of food transmission from parent to young, depositing partially digested food into the hungry mouths of their dependent chicks.

Back to the Rekefest event – which was the official reason why my wife and I were in Ferris (see photograph below — showing Dave Olson, Wayne Rohne, & others — at a different Rekefest hosted by NST’s Snorre chapter, in Houston), at the hospitable home of John and Mari-Anne Moore, that Saturday — eating Nordic shrimp the traditional (Norwegian) way, along with other members and guests of the Norwegian Society of Texas (Viking Chapter).

Of course I had sufficient table manners to not eat like a Little Blue Heron, so I disposed of the shells of my boiled shrimp (after enjoying each one that entered my own digestive system!) with proper etiquette. (And we bought extra shrimp “to go” before we left.)

Norwegian Society of Texas - Viking Chapter Rekefest event

But the lesson of the “in-and-out” proverb remains: whatever exits from our mouths must have been there, already, before it came out. Words flowing out, from our mouths, originate as thoughts, actively proceeding from our “hearts” – so let us carefully guard our hearts, and our lips, so that what we say is helpful, blessing others!

2 For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. 3 Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. 4 Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, wherever the governor desires. 5 Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasts great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindles! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. 7 For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind. 8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the image of God. 10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing; my brethren, these things ought not so to be! 11 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? 12 Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? Or a vine, figs? Likewise can no fountain both yield saltwater and freshwater. 13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? Let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. (James 3:2-13)

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Fair Use image credit:

Ardeidae – Herons, Bitterns

James J. S. Johnson

Orni-Theology

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