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You'll Never Swallow This Photo. See It to Believe It.


Send in your wildlife photos!  If they're good (like the eye-popping, throat-stretching examples below), Bay Daily will publish them. The editorial board here  (me) voted unanimously (1-0) to make this appeal to the public after being inspired by loyal Bay Daily reader Sean McCandless of Cecil County, Maryland.

Sean nominated great blue herons to join the Bay Daily Wildlife Comeback Hall of Fame, and he sent in his photos to illustrate his case. Our international reporting team created this contest back on February 10 after another reader suggested that our publication not just feature Chesapeake critters that are declining -- but also those that are heroically resurgent, despite all odds.  So far, bald eagles, osprey, striped bass, barred owls and black bears are in the Wildlife Comeback Hall of Fame, with nominations pending (when the board can get its act together to form a quorum) for peregrine falcons, wild turkeys and river otters. Today, the exciting news is that the board has voted and BLUE HERONS ARE NOW IN THE HALL OF FAME!!  Congratulations, Sean!

Sean lives near Elkton and works to protect the environment as a municipal stormwater inspector. But in his off-hours he is president of the Cecil Bird Club and (as you can see) a world-class photographer. He recalls that, back in the 1980's when he was a teen-ager, it was a big deal to see a blue heron. Now he spots them nearly every day near his home, where there is a rookery. When spring comes, he'll often see them soaring over his house several times a day -- with sometimes five in the air at one time.  He took these pictures in January on the ice-covered North East River.


"It is certainly encouraging to see so many herons, especially in the dead of winter with ice everywhere and one open hole in the river," Sean told Bay Daily in an exclusive interview.

Check out these gullet-grabbing images. Sean makes a wry observation about what the slender bird is up to.  

"How does that heron survive in this cold weather with only one small open area of water in all of that ice? Answer: It catches large slow moving shad.

Heron3How will that heron swallow that slow giant shad? Answer. Very carefully!"

Gulp. Gaak!  How does the bird get the whole thing down?



Okay, at this point Mr. Heron looks like he is deeply regretting his decision to order the extra large Trucker's Special shad meal.

Heimlich maneuver, anyone?


But no!  Mr. Heron swallowed the whole darn thing! Amazing and inspiring.







                                                                                 And then, he flies away.Heron6

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service describes the comeback of great blue herons on this website.  Back in the 19th century, these elegant birds were massacred for their long blue feathers, which fetched high prices as ornaments for hats.

But then restrictions on hunting helped to save the birds. “Greater protection was afforded in 1918 with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which empowered the federal government to set seasons and bag limits on the hunting of waterfowl and waterbirds. With this protection, herons and other birds have made dramatic comebacks,” the federal agency reports.

To learn more about blue herons, visit the National Audubon Society's page.

Readers, what else should we add to our list of animals that have come back from the brink?  What have you seen flying over your home that you might not have seen 20 years ago? What's crawling around in your back yard?


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Great Blue Herons have significantly increased in the bay region.
Between 1977 and 2003 the number of Great Blue Heron colonies increased over 1,500%. The actual population did not increase as much only about 500% (from 2,476 to 14,744 pairs) So Great Blue Herons are secure and doing well.

DDT and its metabolites did impact Great Blue Herons and they benefited from the banning. They also have benefited from the general change in attitudes towards bird conservation that the passage of the migratory bird treaties initiated about 100 years ago. It has been a slow steady climb for many species ever since.

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