As I walked down the boardwalk into Explore the Wild, I noticed nine or so mergansers fishing for bullfrog tadpoles next to the boardwalk at the point where in goes to pavement. One of the birds was violently shaking something in its bill. I thought it a tadpole and tried to capture an image of the bird swallowing the amphibian.
I watched as the bird shook the object and then drop it in the water, apparently to reposition it for a better grip. It picked it up again and shook. Once more it dropped the object, but had to dive under the water to recover it. This time it came up empty. One more dive, but again it surfaced with nothing in its bill. The bird looked around in the water for a short while (10 seconds or so), spotted me and lost interest in its by now escaped meal.
It wasn’t until I looked closely at the photos that I realized that the merganser had a red swamp crayfish in its possession. The violent shaking was probably an attempt to disable the pincers and the crayfish bolted away when the merganser dropped it.
You can’t win ’em all!
Greg Dodge is a professional naturalist as well as a writer, videographer and producer of natural history DVDs. His images have been used in various TV productions, museum displays, and corporate videos. Above all, he has a fascination and passion for all things natural.
He can be found Tuesday thru Saturday in Explore the Wild, Catch the Wind, or on the Dinosaur Trail. Ask him what’s new in the wild!