"Huh. I'll be danged."
September 9, 2014 7:53 AM   Subscribe

"I didn't know that that's what they ate." Heron vs gopher. With commentary.
posted by dersins (75 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
(Carl Spackler could have used him a heron or two.)
posted by dersins at 7:54 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I once saw a kingbird (a not very big flycatcher) eat a hummingbird at a feeder in Arizona. Things are hungry out there.
posted by Bee'sWing at 8:00 AM on September 9, 2014


It's a dinosaur.
posted by longdaysjourney at 8:01 AM on September 9, 2014 [17 favorites]


Was beaten to the Spackler reference, so I'll just mention that the gopher must not have seen the never give up poster
posted by TedW at 8:02 AM on September 9, 2014


It looked like the poor gopher was still struggling while he was stuck in the heron's throat.
posted by goethean at 8:05 AM on September 9, 2014


God, that just gives me the heebie-jeebies for some reason. I wonder how long that little guy was alive. Ick. Also, I had no idea!
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:06 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm just going to go ahead and point out that is FUCKING AWESOME. And yes, total dinosaur.
posted by norm at 8:08 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Damn, life is brutal.
posted by todayandtomorrow at 8:09 AM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Heron don't give a damn.
posted by bondcliff at 8:12 AM on September 9, 2014


"Michael, he ate a bird. He ate. A bird. Did you SEE that?"
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:15 AM on September 9, 2014 [18 favorites]


That made me sad. And queasy.
posted by shivohum at 8:18 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


How come I can't eat something big enough to make my neck bulge like that? Not fair.
posted by mullacc at 8:19 AM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Red in tooth and claw. And beak. And flipper. And apparently in soft velvety deer snout.
posted by echo target at 8:20 AM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


wtf is up with that deer eating the bird in ThatCanadianGirl's link?
posted by GrapeApiary at 8:21 AM on September 9, 2014


"Who you talking to?"
"I'm videotaping over here."
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 8:22 AM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


"How the hell is that heron going to kill and eat the gopher with just it's beak and..... Oh."
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:26 AM on September 9, 2014


Busier heron.
posted by pracowity at 8:28 AM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


I was a gopher biologist. I spent two summers on a prairie in NW Iowa studying pocket gophers for my Master's research, and it wasn't until moving to Santa Barbara a few years later that I found out herons were gopher predators, and ruthless ones at that. There was a field in Goleta where there would be a few dozen herons, each poised above a gopher mound, waiting to strike when the poor, unsuspecting, nearly blind fossorial root herbivore would peek its head out. It was quite a thing to watch.

The video posted doesn't reveal its location, but shows a pretty large gopher, so I'm suspecting this was the Midwest Plains Pocket Gopher Geomys bursarius rather than the much smaller Thomomys varieties of the West. In case you were wondering...
posted by mcstayinskool at 8:33 AM on September 9, 2014 [48 favorites]


I was a gopher biologist.

Please tell me you had business cards printed.
posted by item at 8:42 AM on September 9, 2014 [20 favorites]


I used to bird regularly at a spot that had ponds and fields. And a lot of happy herons - they could choose from fish, ducklings, and gophers (and maybe something like muskrats?). I'd see great blue herons sometimes catch a gopher and then bring it over to a pond, swish it around some, and then down it.
posted by rtha at 8:45 AM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


I wonder how long that little guy was alive.

However long it takes for a gopher to suffocate, I reckon. I'll tell you something, though, if something like this every happens to me, I'm fighting until my last. It'll be like those pictures of pythons where the animal they swallowed tore its way out of their numbles, except, instead of a scorpion or goat or whatever, it will be me, dead and bleached, protruding halfway out of the middle section of whatever ate me, which, with my luck, will probably also be a heron.
posted by maxsparber at 8:50 AM on September 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


"A quick test of the assertion that enjoyment outweighs pain in this world, or that they are at any rate balanced, would be to compare the feelings of an animal engaged in eating another with those of the animal being eaten."

Schopenhauer, On the Suffering of the World
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:50 AM on September 9, 2014 [12 favorites]


I don't know that I have ever seen an animal, other than a human, look like they were enjoying eating. Most seem to just gulp down food in a panic.

Hunting the food, however? Boy, cats seem to love the act of murder.
posted by maxsparber at 8:53 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


How come I can't eat something big enough to make my neck bulge like that? Not fair.

On a sunny morning a couple of summers ago I was half way through a large toasted bacon sandwich at a nice local café on the harbour side. They do the best bacon butties in town, thick bacon with a bit of fat still on, with some warm grease sinking into generously chunky bread. Mine was all held together with HP as a proper bacon sarnie should be. I finished the first triangle and was just about to start on the second when a seagull dropped out of the sky and picked up the remaining doorstop. It hopped over a low railing nearby and before anything could challenge it for a share it tipped its beak to the sky and coughed down the whole triangle, sideways on. You could literally see the shape of it move down his throat, maybe six inches on the short sides and a couple of inches deep. It was remarkable to watch even through my righteous anger.

I got a cake to make up for it but it was not the same.
posted by biffa at 8:56 AM on September 9, 2014 [21 favorites]


Eat shit, heron.
posted by orme at 8:57 AM on September 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


I don't know that I have ever seen an animal, other than a human, look like they were enjoying eating.

I don't know about see, but on the rare occasions when we would feed our old cat his favourite mackerel he would hum with pleasure.
posted by biffa at 8:58 AM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


When people complain about feathered dinosaurs not being scary enough, I think about an azhdarchid stalking through a field, stabbing at the ground...
posted by tavella at 9:00 AM on September 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


maxsparber: I don't know that I have ever seen an animal, other than a human, look like they were enjoying eating. Most seem to just gulp down food in a panic.

Hunting the food, however? Boy, cats seem to love the act of murder.
Get a dog and feed him bony meat. 5-30 minutes of pure bliss will coat his face like a non-obscene porn shot.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:06 AM on September 9, 2014


mkstayinskool: I was a gopher biologist...

This is why I love Metafilter.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:09 AM on September 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


I'm pretty captivated by the word "was".

I wonder what dark secrets could turn you away from gopher science forever.
posted by SharkParty at 9:11 AM on September 9, 2014 [21 favorites]


I assume he's now a heron biologist. I know I'd switch after watching that video.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:13 AM on September 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


I was a gopher biologist.

Worst. 1950s horror movie. Ever.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:14 AM on September 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


I was a gopher biologist.

Did you have an assistant who ran errands, got you coffee, etc. - a gopher biologist gofer?
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:18 AM on September 9, 2014 [14 favorites]


I wonder what dark secrets could turn you away from gopher science forever

To be prosaic and dull, probably the downturn in science funding from the NSF. There was a long piece on NPR this morning about the cuts in NIH funding, and basic biological research has been hit just as hard as human health research (or worse).
posted by suelac at 9:19 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Did you have an assistant who ran errands, got you coffee, etc. - a gopher biologist gofer?

Who would go for a job as a gofer for a gopher biologist?
posted by mullacc at 9:28 AM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


I did have business cards printed up, but I went for the more generic job title of "Scientist", because I thought it seemed awesomer. True story.

I am not a bird biologist now, but my dad was. Also not kidding.

I did actually have a guy who held the pole while I used a 100-year-old surveying transit to map the gopher mounds. I neglected to ever call him a gopher biologist gofer, and that is something I will have to live with for the rest of my life. Thank you for that.

And finally, yeah pretty much what suelac said. I left the science because of the miserable job prospects, but this was long before the "downturn in science funding from the NSF". Really there's never been any money in it, it's just now there's even less of it.

I now work as a programmer helping with human population data, which is awesome and the work I do shows up on Metafilter EVEN MORE FREQUENTLY THAN GOPHER STORIES. Most recently here and here.

Of course this center is largely funded by NIH and NSF, so I guess I'm still screwed. Good times.
posted by mcstayinskool at 9:31 AM on September 9, 2014 [17 favorites]


They eat snakes and frogs, too. At least the ones around here do.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:32 AM on September 9, 2014


What an awful bird. Not like those lovable pelicans.
posted by CaseyB at 9:58 AM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


I like the seriousness with which he records the event. "It is June 26, 2014. I am witnessing something no human has seen before, I will endeavor to fully describe the events and my state of mind for posterity, and will place a copy of this video in a bank safe-deposit box and/or YouTube."
posted by jjwiseman at 10:14 AM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


I don't know that I have ever seen an animal, other than a human, look like they were enjoying eating.

Presumably your life has been free of those terrible moments of catching the dog banqueting luxuriously at the cat's litter box then.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:30 AM on September 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


Animals will eat anything they can swallow. I've seen herons eat mice, frogs and one time even a young rabbit.
posted by Pendragon at 10:31 AM on September 9, 2014


Also where is that terrible video of a pelican devouring a pigeon in Hyde Park or similar.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:32 AM on September 9, 2014


They eat snakes and frogs, too. At least the ones around here do.

And turtles.

They're water birds, mostly. Hang out around marshes eating fish and whatnot. That's what makes this gopher business so surprising.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:34 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


I like the duck in the pelican video. He's like, "Hey, asshole! There's kids and cameras! You're outta line, get outta here."

Or, I guess "Oi, ye gormless chav! Can't you see the bloody cameras?" Pretty sure ducks don't go cross-Atlantic, so.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:36 AM on September 9, 2014


Sometimes, mostly in the winter, you can find dozens of blue herons standing stock-still in fields around here (island in Puget Sound). We have no gophers, but endless voles, rats and mice. Always wondered what they were doing, but now I have a pretty good idea.
posted by maxwelton at 10:51 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


this entire thread is an illustration of what keeps me coming back to metafilter
posted by janey47 at 11:26 AM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Related: squirrels do eat birds. Squirrels eat pretty much everything.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:30 AM on September 9, 2014


Greatest swordsmen in the animal kingdom, that's us.

Did you know we can also soar on thermals like a hawk?

Un-STOP-able!
 
posted by Herodios at 11:35 AM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Wasn't gopher > heron > lion > human on that food chain chart from The Simpsons?
posted by darksasami at 11:36 AM on September 9, 2014


We went on a winter birding trip up to the Klamath Basin one year. A lot of the farmers flood their fields when they're fallow, and all the predatory birds (raptors, herons, ravens) know this and hang out, waiting for the moles and voles and other burrow-dwelling critters to flee their flooding homes. We watched a heron grab a mole or a vole and then fly off, slowly, pursued by a raven; the heron dropped its snack and the raven grabbed it. The raven had an eagle in pursuit, and in turn the raven dropped the poor mole or whatever and the eagle ended up with it.
posted by rtha at 11:36 AM on September 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


It's the Circle of Death ...
posted by maudlin at 11:50 AM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


I now work as a programmer helping with human population data, which is awesome and the work I do shows up on Metafilter EVEN MORE FREQUENTLY THAN GOPHER STORIES.

WHAT?!!!??11? This serious deficiency in mefi's story selection process must be addressed immediately.

MOAR GOPHURZ!!!
posted by flug at 11:53 AM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


I Am A Fugitive From A Gopher Biology Lab
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:31 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Did you have an assistant who ran errands, got you coffee, etc. - a gopher biologist gofer?

And did he or she, in the early days of the Web, set up a service to help other biologists find useful information? A gopher biologist gofer biologist gopher?
posted by The Bellman at 12:55 PM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


who could ever forget this video of pieces of a man being expelled from a Heron in Central Park circa 2010
posted by any major dude at 12:59 PM on September 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


Upon watching this video, I turned to my wife and said "I bet the word 'dinosaur' is used within the first three comments. "

I opened the thread, and about two seconds later, I got a high-five.

And that makes sense, because... [points] dinosaur.
posted by quin at 1:02 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


I wonder how well a heron can fly after it has eaten 4 gophers. Probably needs more runway.
posted by MtDewd at 1:16 PM on September 9, 2014


But what if the heron were on a treadmill?
posted by gingerbeer at 1:41 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


They eat snakes and frogs, too. At least the ones around here do.

And turtles.


What an awful bird. Not like those lovable turtles.

(The takeaway here is that the pigeon is firmly at the bottom of the food chain.)
posted by CaseyB at 1:42 PM on September 9, 2014


After he eats the gopher: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=ErgdUhZteqw#t=43
posted by Sleeper at 1:48 PM on September 9, 2014


Herons Ripped My Flesh
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:02 PM on September 9, 2014 [3 favorites]



herons . . . dinosaurs . . .

I was gonna make a big thing about pterosaur vs dinosaur but then I found this:
Live "pterodactyls!" In the United States? Prepare for a shock if you thought they all died millions of years ago.
Live Pterosaurs in America: Not extinct, flying creatures of cryptozoology that some call pterodactyls or flying dinosaurs or prehistoric birds by Jonathan David Whitcomb

"Non-fiction" and you can tell, because it has NON-FICTION actually printed on the actual cover.
How can giant "pterodactyls," non-extinct, live in the United States? . . . This book answers these questions and many more.
From 1994 through 2009, about nine* Americans have . . . visited remote islands of Papua New Guinea, searching for . . . a living pterosaur. . . . Most of the evidence they have gathered is native eyewitness testimony**.
Jonathan Whitcomb, the world’s most prolific*** writer on living pterosaurs, here shares with you years of interviews with Americans who have encountered the rare nocturnal flying creatures whose descriptions**** make them nothing other than pterosaurs . . .
My, my, oh, my!

I wonder if Mr. Whitcomb is related to the late Edo Nyland, a conspiracy theorist who leaves Dan Brown in the dust. I miss Edo.

-------------------
* No sense in being over-precise.
** There are no photos.
*** That's gotta count for something.
**** There are no photos.
posted by Herodios at 2:04 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Relevant poem by W. H. Davies: The Truth
posted by doreur at 2:24 PM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Animals can be pretty nasty.
posted by turbid dahlia at 2:31 PM on September 9, 2014


Live "pterodactyls!" In the United States? Prepare for a shock if you thought they all died millions of years ago.

Live Pterosaurs in America: Not extinct, flying creatures of cryptozoology that some call pterodactyls or flying dinosaurs or prehistoric birds by Jonathan David Whitcomb

"Non-fiction" and you can tell, because it has NON-FICTION actually printed on the actual cover.

How can giant "pterodactyls," non-extinct, live in the United States? . . . This book answers these questions and many more.

From 1994 through 2009, about nine Americans have . . . visited remote islands of Papua New Guinea


Um...
posted by Sys Rq at 2:46 PM on September 9, 2014


IT'S POSSIBLE THAT THERE ARE THINGS IN A PLACE, WHY ARE YOU BEING SO OBSTREPEROUS?
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:39 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Mynd you, hërøn bites Kan be pretty nasti
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:51 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


It looked like the poor gopher was still struggling while he was stuck in the heron's throat.

So grateful I always read the comments before clicking into a video.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:29 PM on September 9, 2014


How come I can't eat something big enough to make my neck bulge like that? Not fair

I have read that the reason people (and especially children) are prone to choke to death because of our big vocal box; the other primates dispense with so much talking and consequently can swallow much larger things.

They're water birds, mostly. Hang out around marshes eating fish and whatnot. That's what makes this gopher business so surprising.

Around here they all move into the fields late in the year when the rivers are up and the fields have been cut, leaving the mice and voles that are frantically trying to stock up food for the winter exposed.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:29 PM on September 9, 2014


It looked like the poor gopher was still struggling while he was stuck in the heron's throat.

We had an angler fish (the scary fish from the deep in Finding Nemo for you non-fish folk) and we could see the same thing when it ate a fish, it swallowed them whole (and quickly) and you could see them squirming around in it's belly.

I miss that angler, it was awesome, creepy, and cute, all at the same time. (it's fins look like little stubby feet that it lands on.)
posted by quin at 4:43 PM on September 9, 2014


> I have read that the reason people (and especially children) are prone to choke to death because of our big vocal box; the other primates dispense with so much talking and consequently can swallow much larger things.

The way I head it, Neanderthals would have only been able to speak one-tenth as quickly as we Homo S. can, but they didn't choke to death as often. Life is just a bunch of compromises, innit?
posted by benito.strauss at 5:37 PM on September 9, 2014


Um, "The way I heard it", not "head it".
posted by benito.strauss at 6:18 PM on September 9, 2014


I like the seriousness with which he records the event

Heron with a gopher, I know, I know, it's serious.
posted by zippy at 7:07 PM on September 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


A Whale of a Tale: James Bartley (BURP!).
posted by cenoxo at 4:28 AM on September 10, 2014


It looked to me as though when the heron dropped the gopher and then snatched it up again, it broke the gopher's neck. Look at how much the gopher was struggling before that, and how unmoving it was after the heron picked it up again.

So if you're feeling bad about the heron swallowing it alive, well, maybe it didn't.
posted by Lexica at 6:45 PM on September 10, 2014


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