Monday, February 23, 2009

The Heron

I came down to make the early morning cup of tea this morning, to be met by a flurry of grey wings and prehistorically long legs trailing behind, as the heron flapped away from our rather small and shallow garden pond. There are no goldfish left in the pond since over the years he has had all of them. He doesn't seem to enjoy them very much since he deposits most of their corpses in the garden, the remains of his extremely expensive fish suppers. We tried netting the pond but it seems kind of counterproductive to have something so pretty covered in ugly netting. Now that the goldfish are gone he is probably after frogs or newts, although the sight of the occasional (and somewhat revolting) piece of frog in the garden would indicate that he isn't so keen on those either. Perhaps it's the time of year and he's just hungry, after anything he can get, which would be understandable.
Herons are an increasingly common sight here in the West of Scotland - they used to be exceedingly rare but now you can even encounter them standing beside the road, tall and solitary and very very still, as though in a state of deep meditation. When I'm working in the upstairs study, I'll sometimes lift my head to see one flapping past the window, heading for the lake up at Kirkmichael House. There's a wonderful old tapestry at Falkland Palace in Fife, which has a depiction of what looks like a pterodactyl - but must be a heron. And it's true, they do look like a creature from another time and place. In Scotland, the bird is invariably referred to as 'The Heron' in the singular, as though there is only one of them. 'I saw the heron today' you say. He's getting pretty ubiquitous, that heron. Gets about a bit. But all the same he is known to be a solitary creature, more fond of his own company than other birds of a feather - the jackdaws which flock together among our chimneypots for instance!

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