Today, Max and I witnessed a crime! But before I tell that story, meet Sophie, a lovely lass who is Max’s idol, his dream girl, his boon companion on jaunts within the K Streets. Max was delighted to see Sophie as we began our walk.
Sophie is a sweet little Lhasa Apso who is the complementary alpha female to Max’s beta personality. Sophie bosses Max and Max likes it. Yes, ma’am, thank you ma’am, may I have another, ma’am?
Sophie’s also an older woman which may be part of the allure and part of the alpha/beta relationship. We won’t tell a lady’s secrets; let’s just say she knows what a decade looks like whereas Max will be seven in June.
They have a funny little ritual when meeting on the street. First they freeze and Sophie lowers herself to the ground and tenses her muscles. Next, they stare at each other, immobile but for the slightest tail waggle. Then comes the charge when they race at each other at high speed veering off with a yelp or small bark just before a collision. Finally there is a quick mutual butt sniff and then they move on down sidewalk as if nothing happened.
Sophie’s Mom is a very reliable source of doggie treats dispensed at the conclusion of the walk.
To Max, life doesn’t get much better than having a gal pal whose human gives out the goodies.
After a quick visit with Sophie, Max and I proceeded to the Pagoda Hotel in the hopes of encountering Uncle Fish.
Uncle had been talking about the disappearance of a number of fingerling nishiki koi from the breeding ponds next to the hotel annex.
Who was responsible for the theft? Were neighborhood kids pilfering the fish? Perhaps the feral cats were becoming adept fishing felines?
That’s when we saw it, not more than ten yards in front of us! Fish were being scooped from the pond. The perpetrator was a juvenile heron, an ‘Auku’u in Hawaiian. Max gave a short bark when he spotted the avian criminal at which point the heron stared down the dog just as sassy as you please before raising his wings and ascending to a safe perch on an adjacent roof above the koi ponds.
The ‘Auku’u is formally called a black crowned night heron. Nycticorax nycticorax for you Latin-obsessed bird watchers.
Usually it is a solitary predator who hunts at dawn and dusk. When young, the bird’s colors are muted but by age 3 or so its plumage starts to turn blue with a distinctive black cap and goes through color changes during reproductive cycles.
These are big birds – their wingspans can reach 4 feet or so. They are not at all rare; quite the opposite, these herons are the world’s most common and can be found from southern Canada, across the US, in Hawaii and all the way down to Argentina and Peru! We’ve spotted heron before, usually along the canals at Ala Moana Beach park where they feed on the many tilapia.
From a fishy perspective, the heron is a fearsome and gluttonous predator.
Fast as a snake on Red Bull, the bird thrusts its beak into shallow water, spears the fish, tosses it into a vertical position and…swoosh…down the gullet, sayonara little swimmer.
Perhaps this bird saw the Pagoda Hotel’s recent ads about its all-you-can eat buffet and figured “why not?”
We searched for Uncle Fish to tell him what we witnessed but could not locate him. But we have photographic evidence and are confident this scofflaw will be brought to swift justice.