By Rebecca Seales
Snatched! An unsuspecting duckling is plucked from the shallows by the hungry heron after getting trapped in some wire mesh
Like your ducks cute and fluffy rather than drizzled in gravy? Best look away now...
These images capture the moment a hungry heron plucked a tiny yellow duckling from the pond in Dublin's Herbert Park - and proceeded to swallow it whole.
Photographer Paul Hughes took the shots after a week of stormy weather, which flooded the nearby River Dodder and left the grey heron unable to fish.
Takeaway: The heron hangs on tight to the fluffy morsel (left) which makes a last desperate attempt to escape from its grasp
Shake it up: The heron gives its prey the washing machine treatment in a bid to immobilise it
Horror: The heron takes a better grip on the duckling before swallowing it in one gulp
Driven further afield by starvation, the predator arrived at the park pond to seek an alternative meal.
As adult ducks loudly quacked their alarm, the heron patrolled the pond for several minutes.
Suddenly, it spotted a duckling that had become trapped in some wire mesh that covered the pond's piping.
Wasting no time, the bird craned its remarkable neck in a bid to snap up the juicy morsel.
Clearly, it hadn't reckoned on the third player in this scenario - the furious mother duck, who responded to her baby's panicked cries by charging in and scaring off the larger bird.
The lucky hatchling found its way out of the wire maze, and must have thought it was safe at last.
Alas, it wasn't to be.
Less than three minutes later, the wee waterfowl made a common duckling error and began wandering around the pond an unsafe distance from its mother.
The heron seized its chance, flying to the pond's edge to snatch the little creature from the water.
Proving the adage that nature is red in tooth and claw, the heron duly immobilized the twisting duckling by shaking it violently, before swallowing it down whole - and most likely still alive.
Having satisfied its duck craving, the heron left the park.
Remarkable though these pictures are, they aren't the first to capture the hard-fought bird-on-bird battles which take place at Herbert Park.
Just a few weeks ago, snapper Mr Hughes caught the unfolding drama as two duck parents led their 13 youngsters onto the water for the first time - only for two of them to become takeaway for a seagull on a hunting mission.
We can only assume the other ducks were paying attention, as when the seagull returned later for another helping it was met by a furious resistance movement.
Flapping her wings and flying straight at the predator, one murderous mallard forced the gull to drop her baby and flee the scene.
The war is - no doubt - ongoing. But one thing's for sure - on this pond, there's no such thing as an easy meal.
Foiled: The seagull scoops the chick out of the water, but drops it when the mother swoops in
In a flap: The angry mother proved she was no sitting duck and chased the attacker away
Taking flight: The seagull is in no mood to hang around
Thursday, May 10, 2012
Horror at the duck pond as hungry heron grabs and gulps down newborn duckling in the middle of a park
By Rebecca Seales