Thursday, 17 April 2008

Mister (the amazing disappearing) Heron..

Early yesterday morning, as the sun was starting to pick up the rocks on the foreshore, I took this video of our friend and neighbour Mister Heron. He had just caught and swallowed a fish, and I was hoping for a repeat performance; but instead he pulled off this rather nifty vanishing act. There always was something a little Otherworldly about Mister Heron…
This passage is from chapter 17 of The Blue Cabin:

I was keen to show Allan the stand of pines at Ringdufferin, which has one of the busiest heronries in the area, and we drifted very close to shore to get a good look with binoculars. To exaggerate only a little, there were herons everywhere. With the mating season round the corner, they were quite animated, moving freely among the trees, flap-jumping from crown to crown and making harsh and croaky kah-rahk kah-rahk calls with competitive enthusiasm. It was such a contrast to the inscrutable stillness with which they fish in the shallows.
Lynn said, ‘I wonder which one is ours?’
‘You mean Mister Heron?’
This was the imaginative name I had given to a solitary bird which almost every morning since before Christmas had come to the same spot beneath the jetty at first light. He would stand poised and motionless, his head cocked to one side and his neck held in a deceptively relaxed-looking S shape, waiting for some hapless sprat to swim within striking distance. Then the neck would slowly uncoil and stretch forwards and downwards at a shallow angle to the water, and the legs would inch forward, each foot clearing the surface with every step and disappearing again without a ripple. The strike itself was something to see, his closed beak operating as something between a dagger and a steam hammer, spearing the fish several times before snatching it clear of the water and juggling it into position so that it could be dropped headfirst down the not-so-little red lane of his prodigiously long and ruler-straight gullet.
For a while we were in the habit of saying to our visitors, ‘You’ve got to see the heron. Amazing to watch!’ And we would set up breakfast in the bay window and wait for him to appear. And wait, and wait … It’s the oddest thing but he seemed to know when there were strangers on the island and the morning performance never did happen as billed. Once or twice he glided in but moments after touchdown he was in the air again, lumbering off in no particular hurry to try some other, perhaps less touristy spot for his fishing. ‘Believe me,’ I once said to John Hawkins, ‘as soon as you guys leave he’ll be back’; to which John replied quietly, ‘Of course he will, Mike. Of course he will.’

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