The Heron's Tale
I am a male heron, a wading bird related to the bitterns family. You can find us worldwide, but mainly in tropical areas. I do not know how my ancestors got here and I often wish we were still in a nice warm country. As I am sure you must realise I am a lot smarter than the others as I was able to dictate this note to the human being now typing it out. I was lucky to find him but I heard some of his friends saying that he was a complete birdbrain so I got together with him!
We are unusual in the bird world in that we fly with our necks retracted and, as I expect you have seen, most birds fly with their necks stretched out. Another of our odd characteristics is that some of our feathers break down to form a powder which we use to groom ourselves, that’s why we always look so good! We can be divided into three main groups, day herons, including egrets, night herons and tiger herons. I belong to the main group of day herons. We are quite big birds and I am about ninety centimetres tall.
I and my mate have a nest about three quarters of the way up a very tall tree on a long narrow island in the River Thames, just upstream from Kew Bridge. There is a little colony of us there. We need to be near water as our food is fish, frogs, some insects and water voles, but mainly fish. Sometimes we may eat a young waterfowl, but only if food is very scarce.
My mate has just laid three beautiful greenish blue eggs. When they hatch out I will be very busy keeping the fast growing chicks supplied with food. I will fly around to the places that I have found with water and fish. Usually I will stand very still in the water on my long legs until a fish comes close and then I will take it in my long powerful beak. Sometimes I will stand on the river bank waiting for a fish to come close and at other times I will fly low over the water and take a fish which is swimming near the surface. It is all very hard work but we must eat.
Fishing in the river is not as good as it used to be as the fish are no longer plentiful. There are some big ponds within my flying range and I try to catch fish in these and carry them back to the nest.
As I fly I am always looking for any ponds containing fish so I pay close attention to the gardens of houses near the river. I have always thought that one of these houses in particular must contain very nice people who are friendly to birds. They are always putting out different kinds of food for the various types and sizes of birds that come to their garden. They try to ensure that each type and size has the correct food in position that is safe for that bird. They had a pond in their garden but no fish in it until one day there were nice big golden fish in it. I was so happy these nice people had not forgotten the herons after all so I flew down and took the two biggest ones into my beak. However, the good times did not last! Every time I went back there they shouted and threw things at me and put up nets to try and catch me. In the end they put a great framework of wire netting over the pool and I could not get near it. I was very sad about this but I saw that they still put different kinds of food out for other birds so I just thought they must have a great affinity with fish. Very strange but despite this I still thought they must be nice people.
However, one day I was flying over the area as usual when I saw, a garden near theirs, with lots of people sitting out in the sun and eating. I swooped down and saw the people from the other house were there, sitting and eating FISH!!
I have not felt the same about humans since then!
A Confused Heron