Saturday, 17 October 2015

Bird of the week - Grey heron

The grey heron is one of my favourites at the moment.  Everyone gets very excited about the bitterns but (whisper it) bitterns are just a teeny bit boring - they spend most of the day hiding in the reeds and occasionally flap off to hide somewhere else.  Herons are a lot more interesting as they fight for fishing space, catch fish, and stand around preening in the sunshine.

The grey heron (Ardea cineraria) is a fairly widespread waterside bird and there are lots of young birds around at the moment, setting up on their own.

Their fishing technique is a bit inelegant at times but if it works it works.

There are about 13,000 pairs of herons in the UK and they are found throughout the country.

Herons suffer badly in cold winters and breeding is less successful in cold windy spring weather.  Numbers fluctuate over the years and have declined recently, although the long term trend is an increase.  The BTO's Heronries Census is its longest running census.

Although most often thought of as birds of fresh water, herons are happy at the seaside as well.

Here is Thomas Bewick's woodcut of a grey heron from his A History of British Birds published in 1797.

Bewick describes the heron as "of a melancholy deportment, a silent and patient creature; and will in the most severe weather, stand motionless a long time in the water, fixed to a spot, in appearance like the stump or root of a tree, waiting for its prey...".

He also tells us

You can read a recipe for roast heron here.  Listen to Sir David Attenborough's BBC Radio 4 Tweet of the Day on grey heron here.  Read more about herons here.  See the British Birds Bird Photograph of the Year 2015 winner, a wonderful shot of a heron in the rain, here.  See Maria Schusler's amazing photo of a heron wresting with an eel here.

1 comment:

  1. Tells us there are perch in Gosforth Park Lake, or was it somewhere else?