Monday, January 14, 2008


Please DO click to enlarge

I took a small walk along the river this afternoon, around the lock and island.
It was very nice to see this handsome bird, soaking up some brief winter sun, after all the rain we've had recently (and are due again tomorrow).
This is the Grey Heron, or Ardea cinerea, (Ardea meaning Heron, and Cinerea literally meaning "ash coloured", from the latin cinis, for ash).
Its the largest European Heron and we have approximately 14,000 Heron nests in various Heronries all over the country.

The Grey Heron, like the Great Crested Grebe (and some other waterbirds) can breed very early in the year - with eggs being laid as early as mid february.
When breeding, or "courting", the normally yellow bill turns a quite deep orange or pink colour often.
See a Heron with a deep orange bill? Its a frisky Heron. So 'tis.
This Heron is juuuusssst coming into a breeding season - its bill is turning a pinky colour you can see, as are its legs...
Young Herons are much darker and greyer than the adults. Clumsy when landing in tree tops, they can be very amusing to watch.
Anna and I used to watch a pair of young Herons from our old balcony over the Lea, after they fledged from the huge Heronry on one of the "acidic" islands on Walthamstow reservoirs.

Herons eat anything they can find, pretty well. Anything living that is. Fish, amphibians, small birds, small mammals.
But what eats the Heron?
Well.... Peregrines have been known to kill Herons believe it or not, and in the 16th and 17th centuries, it was considered the ultimate royal sport, to fly your Peregrine Falcon after a Heron...


Jane said...

The herons are hard to photo here... they seem to take off when you are 1/2 a mile away. We stayed in Battersea last year for 6 weeks while my husband was having treatment, and I often used to visit the heronry in Battersea Park. Noisy things! but great to watch. Never saw one of the Battersea Power Station peregrines killing one... but maybe that's why they are so near the park!

The Black Rabbit said...

I've never seen a Peregrine kill a Heron either Jane!
That would be something else eh?!
I guess the large size and difficulty in killing / bringing down, is balance by the ease at which the Peregrine could stoop on the deliberate flight of a Heron.
I'm assured it happens, if rarely though...