Country Corner - The exotic bird with a killer instinct

The hypnotic heron.
The hypnotic heron.

Even after a lifetime of seeing them, it is still hard to believe the heron is a British bird, writes George Hogg (Hogg Estate Service).

There is something so exotic about those plumes.

As for that hypnotic yellow eye and enormous dagger like bill, the bird is every inch the predator.

When I say every inch, there are lots of them. Herons stand over 1.5 metres tall, with legs and neck upright. Also, what about that ‘zipper’ pattern down the front of the neck? It is an example of disruptive camouflage which comes into it’s own as the bird sways slowly from side to side like a snake charmer’s cobra.

Watch a stalking heron and you will notice this subtle swaying, like reeds dancing gently in the breeze, which is exactly what fish are intended to think. Once a fish is spotted the stealth of the stalk is clock slow and barely perceptible.

Then follows a statuesque pose when the bird finally judges it is in range and has its neck coiled into an 'S' shaped ready to strike.

How suddenly this stillness explodes into a harpoon shot of deadly precision.

More often than not the bird is successful and lifts its bill clear of the water to reveal a struggling fish flashing silver in its final seconds of life before being swallowed alive.

For the human leaning over a bridge parapet or sitting quietly on the bank, fishing rod in hand, this is one of Nature’s most dramatic cameos. Life and death dressed up in beautiful robes and grace.

How fortunate for us herons still live among us. For anyone who has never witnessed such a spectacle, I would say, ensure you do.

Nothing is more important than seeing as many of Earth’s wonders as you can.

Get yourself out and about, slow down, look around. There are few excuses not to. Nothing man made compares in any way with Nature.