Jacks up, slides in and we were out of there, happy to be heading north from the Alabama coastline into new territory. Like other folks we’ve been following, we’re glad we came through that vicious storm relatively unscathed. As longtime Californians, we just aren’t used to this kind of crazy weather! But we’re reminded that we need to continue keeping weather monitoring at the top of our list as we begin heading into parts of the midwest that are also known for unpredictability. Among other things, we must:
- Have the necessary tools to be aware of and track storms. We use the Weatherbug and MyRadar Pro apps that send alerts, and we have a handy solar/hand-crank NOAA Weather Radio (thanks, Ben!) that will function even while we’re boondocking. Our cell phones are also programmed to send us severe weather alerts.
- Stay tuned to the Weather Channel and monitor the prediction and progress of storms, whenever possible.
- Always know which county we are camping in, since warnings are usually issued by county, not city.
- Have some emergency clothing and other items ready by the door, in case we need to get out in a hurry.
- Learn where any shelters or sturdy structures are around the campground.
Although we realize we can’t outrun a tornado, we hope this short list will help keep us on the go with a minimal chance of major weather problems. Any other tips you more experienced travelers can add to our list?
Well, that little rant was totally off-topic, but I had to digress and share our recent learning experience. With that out of the way, here is the real story behind the title – it’s about a snake and a big bird, a Great Blue Heron (GBH for short). This is a leftover story from our stay at Gulf State Park, where the Great Blue Heron was a familiar sight. They usually stood at attention around the campground, by the lake, in the woods, on the beach or even on top of a tree, posing for me. Always focused and waiting for unwary prey, they are really fun to watch!
The tall, long-legged Great Blue Heron is easily spotted, and many of you have probably seen them since they’re very large birds with one of the widest wingspans in North America. But I doubt that most of you have taken as many pictures of them as I have! We spent a lot of quality “heron-watching” time while at Gulf Shores, even witnessing one of them stalking and catching a snake. I thought it might be worth sharing some of those moments.
Lets have fun with a few heron facts – Great Blue Herons are identified by their red-brown thighs and a pair of red-brown and white stripes running up their flanks. The neck of these herons is rusty-gray in color, with black and white streaks running down the front. They have a mostly white face, with the rest of the head being more pale.
Great Blue Herons look huge in flight, with a wingspan of up to six feet.
In flight, a Great Blue Heron’s neck is folded back into an “S” shape, and the legs are stretched out behind its body.
A Great Blue Heron is capable of swallowing a fish many times wider than its narrow neck, which has been known to choke and kill them on occasion.
Although they typically nest in colonies, herons hunt alone and that’s why I’ve never seen a group of herons hunting. Besides fish, they eat a wide variety of prey such as frogs, salamanders, turtles, snakes, insects, rodents and small birds. Just look at that menacing beak!
They have special vertebrae in their necks that allow them to curl it into an “S” shape. This allows them to make a long and lightning-fast strike at their prey.
On one of those days before the storm hit, Steve and I were reading and relaxing outside when we caught a glimpse of a GBH stalking around. Of course, I ran for my trusty camera while Steve grabbed the binoculars to enjoy the show. We watched as it stood completely motionless for a long time, then walked very slowly – almost like a cat – getting into striking range of its prey. Then, with a quick thrust of its sharp bill, it snapped up a snake and tore it in half. That poor snake must have wondered what the heck had just happened, as it continued to wiggle around in the heron’s mouth.
The following short clip shows that the snake almost got away, but the heron was quicker. And to think I was right in that area a little earlier taking some pictures! I called that heron our “guard bird” for getting the snake before it could come into our site.
Do I detect a smile on this guy’s face as he enjoys his lunch?
Wildlife scenes such as this may not be spectacular, but to us they’re fascinating and make our lifestyle even more rewarding. More so when it happens right outside our door, like when the Sandhill Cranes visited us in Sebring, Florida, or when the little Black Bear emptied out our bird feeder in Lake Monroe, Florida. Good times!