Mammals vs. Dinosaurs

A great egret holds a Townsend's vole in its beak as it prepares to eat it

I’ve met people who think it preposterous that birds descended from dinosaurs, a theory that dates back to the 19th century and the discovery of an Archaeopteryx fossil, as they think of birds as being small and cheerful. They might change their minds if they spent some time watching an egret hunt for voles.

As I’ve photographed birds over the years I was struck by how many of the feathers on a bird’s body aren’t actually used for flight. I began to wonder which came first, feathers for flight or feathers in general? This article by Luis Chiappe on dinosaurs and birds gives the answer (spoiler alert: it’s not flight). I’ve only started reading the article but it’s written in plain language and has a lot of information (and importantly, references) on the link between dinosaurs and birds, and how most paleontologists believe that some dinosaur species survived and evolved into the birds we know and love today.

I suppose it’s all splitting hairs to this vole, within seconds of being swallowed on a rainy January afternoon. I sometimes shoot hunting egrets and herons and bitterns with my biggest lens, to show that one life is ending in order for another to continue, and sadly I’ve only ever been able to photograph these voles in the last seconds of their short lives. I keep hoping one day to get a photograph of a vole just sitting in a meadow but for some reason they don’t stay above ground very long.

A Mouthful of Vole

Down the Hatch

Swallowed Whole

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