A summer with the birds (1/7). When the heron sits down at the table

A summer with the birds (1/7). When the heron sits down at the table

This spring, I went to Chilly-Mazarin (Essonne), one of the least green towns in Greater Paris, stuck between the Orly runways and the A6 motorway. There, however, I discovered a park adjoining the town, a little hidden green treasure. After some time cycling on the paths, I came face to face with a heron, along the Yvette. It was on the opposite bank and was holding a strange prey in its beak.

At first I thought it was a rat, because herons, you know, don’t just eat fish; they also devour frogs, salamanders, crustaceans, insects, snakes, ducklings, rodents and baby geese, even baby rabbits. When I raised the binoculars to my eyes, I saw that my heron had caught a mole. But how? Did the unfortunate creature poke its nose out for a moment? Did the heron hear it digging just under the surface before harpooning it with its long, pointed beak? In any case, the fearsome wader seemed not to know what to do with this mole. He held it with the tips of his mandibles like you would hold a spring roll between two chopsticks, motionless, staring into space, seeming to ponder the solution to his problem. How to swallow his meal?

Moles are heavy, a machine the size of a AAAAA andouillette, the cylindrical body covered in thick, shiny black fur, and legs with sharp claws. The complete opposite of an eel or a smooth goldfish, easy to swallow. The heron finally opted for flight. But not far. It just followed the watercourse to settle a little higher up, on a small beach.

A delicate tasting

The mole, until then inert, struggled in a last burst to try to free itself from the iron grip of its predator.

The mammal, fighting for its life, writhed frantically, sending little ripples across its fat, cylindrical body. Then came the coup de grĂ¢ce: the heron juggled its prey and, in mid-air, delivered three deadly dagger blows that split its body. The mole lay inert, hanging limply from the beak of its great feathered reaper. A gourmet bird, or simply not stupid, the heron then dipped its prey in the water of the Yvette, as one would dip the tip of a croissant in coffee, no doubt to moisten the fur of one’s meal. And swallowed it in fits and starts, sending it forever into its stomach.

Moles are engineer species. Keystone of the ecosystem, they are despised as “harmful”, while without them, the soil would not be aerated. Queen of the kingdom below, from where the fertility of the world springs, this mole found itself in an even darker, more distant world, its atoms largely digested and integrated by a heron for many spectacular, magnificent, symbol of grace and lightness.

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