Carolyn Schwab spends a lot of time watching assorted shorebirds and waterfowl on the small lake she and her husband, Terry, own east of Newton.
Standing at her living room window, looking through a spotting scope, she sees a lot of “Discovery Channel” moments.
One was last month when she watched a great egret get slowly towed away from where it was feeding with four others. The large white bird eventually disappeared feet-first beneath the lake’s calm surface and never returned.
A large snapping turtle – the “Jaws” of Kansas waters – probably held the bird under water until it drowned then ate very well.
A check with Joe Collins, a noted herpetological expert from Lawrence, confirmed that snapping turtles have been documented pulling birds underwater, holding on until they drown then eating away.
I’ve heard such tales before, even of people seeing full-grown Canada geese or mallards pulled beneath the surface. But I’ve also heard tales of black mountain lions with kittens, too. I’m pretty gun-shy when people tell me things.
Carolyn, however, I believe. I’ve seen the huge size of some of the snappers in her pond and have faith in her honesty. Like most die-hard birders she doesn’t say she’s seen this species or that species until she’s 100-percent sure, even if it takes days to verify.
She once watched a coot disappear below the water of her pond, too. It, like the egret, went under without a lot of struggle.
Still, though, a great egret’s one of our largest wading birds. They stand more than three feet tall with a wingspan of about 50 inches. But despite being tall and wide they weigh less than two pounds. Obviously that wasn’t too much for a big snapper to handle.
But I wonder how long that meal lasted for that ol’ turtle? Other critters must have wondered the same thing.
Carolyn still sees the occasional great egret at the pond. The group of four survivors, though, haven’t been seen there since.
I can’t say that I blame them.