In the beautiful lakes of Lough Erne, the magnificent Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea in Latin and Corr réisc in Irish) are a common but stunning sight. They are unmistakeable with their long graceful necks and haughty, stately presence on our lakesides and in our skies. It hauntingly prowls and stalks the reeds and spikes its prey with the incredibly long, knife sharp beak! The collective noun for herons is a siege, and I’m sure koi-carp enthusiasts and fish farmers feel like they are under siege when they snatch their fish! To me, they are synonymous with the our rivers and they are beautiful, majestic creatures.
I love their patience and stillness as we watch them, the way they preen their feathers and the high padded step as they stalk,
is quite breath-taking to watch. It is sometimes said that a heron’s foot is a great addition for fishermen, exuding a scent, it lures the fish towards it, not sure how true this is. I’d love to know! Thanks to the improved quality of our waters and river systems (in part thanks to EU Legislation!) herons are a more prominent feature of our riversides. Herons are predatory birds and hunt for frogs and small mammals as well as fish. Even though most of their time is spent feeding in water, they nest high up in the trees. The heronry, or breeding colony, stick close together and a great example of this is Heron Island, which can be viewed from the walking path at Monea Castle here in Fermanagh. There are lots of gulls there too and recently I saw a Little Egret there (also a member of the Heron and Allies family).
Herons can also build nests as solitary birds and the male lays out twigs and invites his chosen hen to make the nest with him, what a civilised ritual in comparison to some mating practises in nature! It is also an old belief that a heron nest has two holes for their long legs but I have never been close enough to see this!
There are around 12,000 breeding pairs here in the UK and although we have them on our rivers, they are also found in marshes, estuaries and coasts.
Wintering numbers can amount to 60,000 birds. Wow! A heron in flight is beautiful to watch, its slow moving wings, outstretched legs and weightlessness are a joy to see. Even though we see them regularly, they always bring a smile because they are such characterful residents. Their one legged stance and hunched up appearance look so funny but they kind of look a bit rebellious too, I really love them.
I hope you agree that herons are fantastic birds and don’t forget, cover your pond with netting so you can still have a good opinion of these wonderful creatures!
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed it.