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...