The Hungry Heron

It suddenly feels a lot like Spring. The temperature is booming, around 13 °C here today. There are buds in the trees, recording stations have detected the thrushes starting to head North again and there are Sand Martins in West Africa on their way North too.

You may remember a few weeks I was talked about the grey heron that seems to be spending its time on the grassy floodplain of the Avon rather than on the river itself. It’s now become very clear exactly why it is doing this as I saw it catch and eat a rat.

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It’s easy to imagine that herons only eat fish but they are happy to eat any prey they can get their beaks on. This must be a sizeable meal for a heron and it appeared to be an easy find so it’s no wonder the heron is spending it’s time here at the moment! This second photo shows just how big a meal it was as the heron struggles to swallow it.

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Nearby on the river itself this little egret didn’t seem to having much luck when it came to hunting.

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I haven’t seen much of the roe deer lately- they put in an appearance last weekend and were very busy eating.

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Over the last fortnight I’ve seen a few birds which are unusual for my patch. None of them are especially rare but they are birds I’m not accustomed to seeing around here.We do get the odd jay locally but this is the first time I’ve managed to capture a really clear image of one.

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Jays are the most beautiful of our corvids, with the lovely pink colour and the stunning blue section on the wing. Like other corvids they are very intelligent and have apparently been recorded being able to plan for future needs and being able to take into account the desires of their partner when sharing food in the courtship ritual.

A more unusual spot was this treecreeper. There are probably a few around in the area but they are a challenging bird to spot.

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I watched this individual as it went about it’s usual behaviour. Treecreepers forage up the tree, working in a spiral around the trunk, and then fly to the bottom of another tree to repeat the process.

The biggest recent surprise was when I stumbled across a whole flock of meadow pipits.

 

Meadow pipits are generally found towards the North and the West of the country but move south in the winter, which probably explains why I saw them here. The name pipit comes from the sound it makes and this species used to be known as things like ‘chit lark’ ‘tit lark’ and ‘titling’.

In pretty much the same place as the pipits I saw a pair of stonechats today. I do sometimes see them towards the east of my patch, close to the New Forest, but they were the furthest west and closest to the town centre that I’ve ever seen them.

 

I’ve seen plenty of the local buzzards over the last few days. Yesterday there was on it’s usual fence post.
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Then today I saw a pair engaged in what I think was a mating ritual. It was very tricky to take photos but you can see the two birds here.

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Buzzards engage in their mating ritual ‘before the beginning of spring’ which would today perfectly. It certainly looked like how a buzzard mating ritual is described. The male rose high up in the sky to then turn and plummet downwards in a spiral. Buzzards mate for life so it is likely these are the parents of the young birds which were in the area last summer. It must somewhat ruin the romantic moment when some crows start getting in the way though…

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