Yellow-crowned Night-herons, Nyctanassa violacea, at the Salt Marsh Nature Center.“Where the yellow-crown’d heron comes to the edge of the marsh at night and feeds upon small crabs” wrote Whitman in Song of Myself. The low tide here reveals fiddler crabs amongst the marsh grasses. This one grabbed a crab with some nearby seaweed, took the dual mouthful to the water, and shook the crab and seaweed apart. The crab went plop in the shallows, but was instantly fished up and tossed into the mouth.Right down the gullet. Sure got dark early for that crab.

Of course, these birds will also eat whatever they can catch, from worms to small mammals. A Black-crowned Night-heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) also seen here recently was chased by a relay of Red-winged Blackbirds as it flew over the marsh. The blackbirds were protecting their territory and nests from another lusty predator — which we’ll catch up with tomorrow.It’s usually difficult to see the yellow in the crown on a bright day. The violet on the back, which is the source of the specific epithet violacae, however, is sort of visible here. A gray violet…

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