Kiba Point

A fishy drama

20 June 2011

Here in the Selous, a thousand dramas play out every day. Some involve wild chases with lions and other big game, but more often the story involves a few smaller players.

Out on a game drive this morning, I came around a corner on the shore of Lake Tagalala and caught sight of a Great Egret, with a fish in its mouth. Is this just another quick and easy meal? With a Striated Heron and a croc nearby, and a wriggling fish to hold on to, the outcome was far from certain.

The egret waded into the lake with the fish in its mouth, trying to flip it around so that he could swallow it whole, as egrets are want to do with their catch. Meanwhile, the croc kicked off the bank and slid out into the water.

The fish flopped at just the right time and the bird couldn't hold onto its catch.

The Striated Heron thought he might be able to pull a fast one and started to lunge in after the dropped fish. But the much bigger egret wasn't taking any of the little guy's nonsense.

A stern look told the punk to stay away. The egret quickly thrust his head back into the water and popped out again, the fish securely in his beak. The heron couldn't do much more than look on in disappointment.

Unfortunately for him, however, the egret wasn't the biggest player on the pond. There was someone around a bit bigger than his own size to take him on.

The croc, a rather large one by Lake Tagalala standards, sensed he might be able to get an easy snack just like the heron. 

By this point, the egret was desperately trying to get the fish down his gullet. When the croc closed to within a meter and a half, however, he realized he was running out of time to choke it down.

He legged it and the croc decided not to chase after the quick-footed bird. A croc this big has more than enough experience to know that when a great egret decides to run for it, there's no point chasing after competition that can fly.

Finally, with a little space between himself and his pursuers, the egret was able to accomplish what he had been trying to do since the beginning: get the fish pointed head first down his throat.

With a big gulp, the fish slid visibly down the long neck and the drama finally came to an end. 

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