Sunday, 22 February 2015

Species of the Week 8 - Grey Heron

The grey heron, Ardea cinerea - a bird that is often not given much credit and one I have seen a lot of lately. I think in the past week or so I have seen a heron nearly every day. They have either been flying nearby or standing on the side of the road looking for food. In flight I have had a chance to get a look at their long legs and their long slow wing beat. In the summer I was lucky enough to have fairly long encounter with a heron as it stood looking for fish in the River Derwent. 

Grey Heron, Ardea cinerea - River Derwent
What is amazing between the picture above and below is the difference in the neck of the heron. When the heron is sat with its head tucked in you would never guess it has such a long neck. With the heron's neck at full stretch it is pretty long and you have to wonder how it tucks it all away! Where does it all go?!

The long neck of the grey heron - River Derwent
When walking on the riverbank, I could watch the very majestic pose and the quiet, long delicate step of the heron. It is quite an easy bird to identify being mainly grey with a white underbelly with black on the neck and a black head crest. It also has an unmistakable bright yellow bill and together with its long neck it can use these to strike at prey such as frogs and fish.

The stalking walk of the grey heron - River Derwent

The other recent sightings I have had of the grey heron was up on the Moray Coast on a beautiful frosty morning and I have also seen one recently perched high up in a treetop. That was a first for me but it is not unknown for them to do this. Unfortunately I didn't get a pic as I was driving at the time!

Grey Heron in the snow - Findhorn

The other very recent sighting I have had was when out walking and one flew across in front of me and down the field. Another brilliant close encounter, where I could clearly see the black wing tips and the long legs outstretched to the back. When in flight the heron also tucks its head in which can make it a bit harder to identify. Another amazing winter survivor battling the cold weather looking for food.

Grey heron in flight - Local neighbourhood

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