I had a fun ranger assignment today. We periodically use heron decoys for some of our birding programs at the park. We have two, but one went missing and a new one was purchased.
However, when the ranger went to purchase a new great blue heron, all that was in stock was a sandhill crane. The ranger picked it up because we needed a second one. If you look closely at the sandhill, you can see that it has a bit of a heron shape, right down to the crest feathers. All that was done to alter the species of the decoy was that the bill was painted black, some white was added to the face, a red cap was put on and the whole body was gray. I offered to try and paint it into a great blue heron.
I also had an ulterior motive. If you look at the decoys side by side, you might notice that they have unusually large cloacal protuberances. I'm willing to overlook this, however, your average sixth grader is not and sometimes the unneeded part leads to lots of giggling that can take away from program time. I thought since I had the decoys in my possession, I might do some trimming. Alas, my exacto knife was too small to cut it. So I had to put in a maintenance request for a large blade. I decided to be discreet and take it downstairs to maintenance. As I explained what I wanted done and that it was "too hard" that led to uncontrollable giggling on maintenance's behalf. Fortunately, they found a blade and both protuberances were swiftly and mercifully removed.
Considering all that I had to work with were three cans of spray paint (white, black and buttercup) plus a sharpie, the sandhill turned into a rather nice looking or at least somewhat identifiable great blue heron. Even more impressive, I managed to avoid spray painting my park uniform.
Also, these should be good decoys now that the laugh factor has been removed. I thought it was curious that the local store would only have sandhill crane decoys and not herons. I think this particular store sells them more as lawn ornaments, however in some states, it is legal to hunt sandhills. Minnesota is not one of those states, so it is curious how they ended up here.