More great stories and paintings from the Lilja students today and a post about a smart heron named Hank.
At a pond on a golf course in Hawaii, a black crowned night heron watches bread floating on the water. He watches intently. Then with a motion so fast it is almost imperceptible, he lunges at the bread. Bingo! Down his gullet goes a duped fish. The fish, not suspecting the set-up, had risen to eat the bread. The heron then picks another scrap of bread from the bank and places it on the water. Again he watches the bread intently for an underwater nibble. Bang! He scores another fish.
The night heron's name is Hank. He has mastered the art of fishing for his dinner with the bread scraps thrown by human visitors to his pond. He has gained notoriety for his clever use of the bread scraps to catch fish.
The truth is many herons fish using bait, such as insects and worms. It is clever, however that Hank has observed, that the fish on his pond like bread, and that there is an easy supply of bread on the banks with which to lure fish. He has translated his observation into a skill that has rendered him successful and given him an advantage. He does not have to waste his time hunting for bait. More time to rest. More to eat. More time to find a mate.
Hank's brilliance makes me think about observation and innovation in all our animal friends. Like the burrowing owl who puts dung in front of her nest to attract dung beetles, a major food source of burrowing owls. Like a person with a home garden and a baby to watch, the owl can multi-task, grab a meal while defending the nesting site.
I think of American alligators in Louisiana who have been observed in the Spring resting sticks on their snouts then submerging themselves so only the sticks are visible, floating on the surface of the water. Unsuspecting birds, gathering sticks to build their nests, fall prey to this clever trick.
Closer to home, I had a pony with an itchy belly who found a short bush in her pasture which was the perfect height with which to scratch her belly. Every morning as soon as she was let out of her stall and into the pasture she'd go trotting right up to that bush, straddle it and give herself a good belly scratching.
My favorite story about animal innovation is about my sister-in-law Carolyn's Golden Retriever. One Thanksgiving when she was growing up, the whole family was in line with their plates to get some of the carved turkey. The dog, observing that chunks of meat were being put on to each plate that was handed to Carolyn's father, ran into the kitchen and came back with his dog bowl in his mouth.
Blue Dog by Connor, age 6
This dog belongs to my grandparents. It is a miniature Australian Shepherd. It likes to explore and chase squirrels. Its fur is very fluffy and I rarely get to see it. When I see Coco even after a long time, he recognizes me.
The Last Galapagos Tortoise by Zach, age 7
George the last Galapagos Tortoise was around 100 years old. He became the mascot of the Galapagos Islands. He attracts 180,000 visitors per year. He was between 100 and 120 years old when he died. This was an endangered species which could live to 200 years old. I didn't want these tortoises to become endangered and die out. George was the last one and he lived a long life.
Walrus and Dolphin by Liam, age 7
I painted these animals because I feel good about them. I think those animals are special. They both eat the same thing. Walruses have tusks. Dolphins can jump.
The Man-Saving Gorilla by Gabby, age 7
Lunchtime on a summer day at Brookfield Zoo in 1996. A little boy climbed where he shouldn't have and fell five feet down into a hole. Gorilla Binti Jua saved the little boy. However, the little boy was badly injured and brought to the hospital. I never knew gorillas could save someone. I was surprised that it was a gorilla that decided to help the boy!
Fluffy Bunny by Vicky, age 7
This bunny protected because a black bear has been with it for many years. The black bear died but the bunny is still alive.
The Beast, Sapphire the Cat by Carly, age 8
Sapphire was a black cat. He was lazy and I needed to pick him up to make him move. But one day he ran away and I was sad.