Western science has been slow to recognize intelligence in animals. I suspect this is because since we began to get our food from agriculture there has been little need to observe animals closely in the way that hunters do. I always enjoy seeing animals think and above is a little example I saw out at Esquimalt Lagoon. Great Blue Herons usually wade around until they catch a small fish. Getting their catch from the end of that long beak into their mouth is usually just a matter of opening the beak briefly while tipping the head back so that the catch slides down towards the throat. I've never seen a heron lose a small fish while doing this so I watched with interest when the heron pictured above caught a furiously wriggling eel (above left). I figured he was going to lose it for sure as soon as he opened his bill in order to slide it down towards his mouth since the eel was whipping itself back and forth vigorously. What the heron did in this situation was to wade in to the beach and up onto the shingle. There he dropped his catch on the pebbles where it couldn't swim away to safety. The heron then stabbed it a few times (above center). Once it had stopped moving he picked it up and swallowed it in the usual way (above right). If you think about it, this is a wonderfully complex series of actions. I wonder whether this bird figured this method out for itself or whether it is behavior learned from other herons. I had been watching this heron for some time and earlier saw it twice catch small fish and swallow them without killing them on shore first.
Situated on the far west coast of Canada, on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, Victoria is the capital city of the Province of British Columbia. Its benign climate (the warmest winters in Canada) and placid lifestyle make it a favorite retirement location as well as a popular tourist destination. About 400,000 people live in Victoria and adjacent communities. Click the photos to see them larger!