Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Wild Wednesday

In college(university), I studied environmental science and biology. I traveled to amazing places during our J-term and the professor I traveled with (Clarence) was keen on having a species checklist, or a list of key plants and animals that are integral in the ecosystems of that area.

Since moving to England, I have started keeping a bit of a species checklist through photos and making online digital albums sorted by family (King Philip Came Over From Germany Sunday). I look up scientific names and natural history and put in the captions of each photo. It keeps my brain active and helps me learn about my new environment.

Each week I will share a species with you. Some may not be so exciting, but they will all have something special. This weeks feature for Wild Wednesday is the Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea).

This is one of the larger birds in England standing 36-40 in tall. It is mostly grey and white with black plumage on the leading edge of the wings and a wispy black cap. ( very similar, but slightly smaller than a Great Blue Heron without the blue).

It is described as a wading bird and often found in shallow waters hunting fish, frogs, or salamanders. It can also be found 'wading' amongst tall grasses, as I observed, feeding on insects or small rodents. Like other 'wading birds' it stands very still with only a slight weave as if it were blowing in the wind. It's long legs, to prey, blend in with grasses or branches giving the bird a stealthy approach. Then once prey is spotted and location locked in, with lightening speed the heron will grab or stab with its large yellow beak.

Population in the UK is quite strong (status green) with approximately 61,000 birds wintering in the British Isles and over 14,000 nesting here. They typically nest in treetop colonies where 4-5 eggs are laid (usually one brood per year) between January and May.

In my three years of visiting/living in the UK, I have seen only one great heron. A single bird was in tall grasses between a field and the road on the way to Harrogate. We managed to pull over and I got one picture with my iPad before he flew into the field where he continued hunting. With such a stable population, I really expected to see them more frequently, a stark comparison to Florida or even Pennsylvania. So I was very excited to spot this one and get another check on my list. I will be hunting for more and hope to have my dSLR camera at the ready on my next sighting.

Happy Wild Wednesday!

*all statistical information from the RSPB website and book

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