Monday 30 October 2023

Purple Passion 30th October 2023

The Purple Heron is still at Whelford Pools, now for its ninth day. Being so near to my home I am making the most of this rare opportunity to watch such a secretive creature showing itself so extraordinarily well in its chosen area of cut reeds. slap bang in front of a hide.

I arrived at ten or just after and was surprised to see the small car park so full of cars.I assumed everyone would have seen the bird by now and its popularity would have waned somewhat but not a bit of it. Luckily a car was leaving as I arrived so  I had a space to park in..

I was later to learn that on Saturday cars were parked all along the road as the car park was constantly full and the owners of the neighbourng property to the reserve were very annoyed at the disturbance.

The small hide was almost full but I managed to get a space on a bench, with a bit of a squeeze, at the far end.Not the best position to be in, as my view would be partially obscured by a branch from which hung bird feeders but the heron had just flown off so there was no urgency. It would not be back for a while.

For half an hour I saw nothing but a Kingfisher until the heron flew from one side of the lake to the other and disappeared over the trees to my left. An hour later and now having been joined by Mike and Brian, we were sitting and chatting, whiling the time away, when the heron flew in and landed on its usual patch of waterlogged cut reeds.

By now I have become familiar with its routine and watched as it landed at the far right corner of the reeds and then slowly walked across to the other side of the cut reeds, stopping at one point to stand hunched and entirely motionless, a statue with neck, head and bill bent to the water, waiting to strike at any fish that came within range. 

It is remarkably successful in catching fish, almost exclusively Perch, although I did see a video on social media of it with a Pike in its bill that looked well beyond its capacity to swallow.Sadly the video did not show the conclusion and whether it managed to consume the fish or not.

After a pleasant enough hour watching the heron, it moved to one of its favourite fishing spots where it seemed to have most success and sure enough a lightening lunge into the water saw it retrieve a large Perch, which it carried well away from the water's edge onto the cut reeds. Here it struggled for  a while to hold the writhing fish in its bill and indeed inadvertently dropped it at one point only to instantaneously retrieve it. The fish now positioned crosswise in its bill. remained held firm between its mandibles, twisting and flapping its tail. For a minute the heron stood contemplating its next move. Slowly and painstakingly as its resistance subsided the large fish was manoeuvred until its head was pointed towards the heron's gullet and with no little contortion on the part of the heron's bill and gape disappeared down the bird's throat. It had looked impossible but the heron knew better.

The heron stood for a while, replete, but was surprisingly quickly back into action in its remorseless search for more fish.

A late Osprey flew over the lake, it too had been fishing and was carrying a fish in its talons.

I can think of worse ways to spend a Monday.

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