Friday, October 28, 2016

Got a gopher problem? Maybe this Highland Park heron is for hire

Highland Park

The gopher-gobbling Blue Heron of Sycamore Grove Park | Rebecca Peterson-Fisher

HIGHLAND PARK — Rebecca Peterson-Fisher was walking her dogs through Sycamore Grove Park last week when she was surprised to see what park regulars said was a Great Blue Heron strolling around the grounds.  The same regulars, an elderly couple, said the heron comes to the park to hunt for gophers just about every morning.  Said Peterson-Fisher:

They said they had seen it spear a gopher with its beak and eat it. One of them said when it walks like Michael Jackson it is gopher-hunting, and it is an expert gopher-hunter. I had never heard of a heron eating gophers  but I Googled it later and there are some videos on YouTube of herons eating gophers. Who knew?”

Hmmm.  Gopher-eating Herons?  The Eastsider was dubious but also ran across numerous references on the web, including at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, about the herons eating pocket gophers and other small mammals.  Anyone familiar with Sycamore Grove Park knows you don’t have to walk very far before coming across a gopher hole, which must make this park a popular sport for a hungry heron.

Peterson-Fisher is now going to spend more mornings at the park. “I think I’ll go more now in the hopes of seeing the heron catch a gopher.”

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  1. They snack on the gophers in Elysian Park too!

    • Yep, I’ve seen and videod one in EP. Was quite surprised to see him there, thought he was looking for worms or something, not gophers.

  2. I see this fella at the park when I walk my dog there. He just hangs out by the playground watching everything and he isn’t really scared of dogs or people. He’s HUGE too!

  3. I saw this heron stalk and then gulp a gopher right from it’s hole. I couldn’t believe it. It let my son,dog and I watch from not too far a distance

  4. Might be drought-related. W/drought many local streams may be too low or have gone dry, so heron’s normal prey of fish could have forced them to go to secondary prey. But gophers, wow, that a first for me. Always thought they were exclusively fish eaters.

    • This is an interesting idea, but don’t our local streams have a drought every single year? They go almost dry every summer. I suspect the increase in gopher eating heron is another consequence of I-phonology. It just hadn’t been photographed or tweeted much in the past.

      • Not always, which is why anglers like myself pray for the return of El Nino. Some of our streams are year-around (San Gabe and forks, others) and some indeed go bone-dry. The Great Blue heron is a reg at the year-around streams.

  5. I’ve seen these birds strutting around Griffith Park. The first time I saw one, I stopped my car, got out, and took video of it. I enjoy spotting them; I guess you could call me a “heron addict.”

  6. Curious, I googled heron/gopher, and came up with several videos. This is the most graphic (be forewarned ) and is accompanied by appropriate mystery film noir music! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=naElLC53tVs

  7. This guy comes over to my koi pond in Silver Lake and spears some lunch every once in a while. Now I know why he hasn’t been back recently.

  8. This is pretty common with herons. This pic isn’t from LA, but still illustrates:


    You can see them nabbing little furry critters in Griffith Park as well.

    Also it was most likely a pocket gopher.

  9. Cool! We see that same guy, or one of his family, every so often atop a telephone pole high up in Montecito Heights. It is amazing to see that big creature just sitting there and then he/she flies off presumably down to Frogtown. Thanks for this post

  10. There’s one that hangs out on the field at Lake Balboa Park. He just walks around all day looking for gophers.

  11. I’ve seen them eat gophers in Elysian Park as well. It’s a blast to watch.

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