Big thank you from

The advanced fishing technique of the heron

by Paul Cormacain 01/02/2002

ONE of the more prestigious wildlife photographic competitions in the world is now on the lookout for entries. Young and old may enter, the scope is vast and the personal esteem is enormous. The BBC Wildlife Magazine, together with the Natural History Museum, are responsible for this competition, and it is now in its 19th successful year.

You would have to interested in wildlife, have an eye for camera usage, and like the camera. With those simple qualifications, you could go to the South Pole to capture penguins on film, dodge lions, on safari in Africa, or go to the countryside.

Equally dramatic, even stunning pictures, could be obtained in the mountains, by the sea, in forest or glen. Of course, you could always put less energy into travelling and more into creative photography.


Try a still life of flower or insect, or a moving shot of insect or bird, in your own back garden.

You need an official entry form for your work of genius. Easiest thing to do is to apply to the Natural. History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD. And good luck.

I was cogitating on photography and wildlife while walking along the beach last week. A heron came down, had a look around, then landed in shallow water where sea algae was growing. It had another look around, then starting fishing.

We associate the heron with rivers, ponds, lakes, even marshes, but the sea holds attractions for this great fishing bird also.

If you see a heron standing motionless in or at fresh water, he is just using his brilliant fishing technique. He stands without movement so prospective prey see him not. A fish comes along, or a frog, or a beetle, and the heron lets them get within beak distance, then strikes.

So it is at the seashore. The exact same technique, with the great bird remaining motionless, and then a fish comes along. Once it gets close enough, its death warrant is signed, and the heron strikes with its great bill. The fish does not know what hit it, is almost always dead immediately and if small is eaten whole, head first.

A larger fish is speared till death, brought on shore and eaten bit by bit. If a small crustacean decides to go walk-about when the heron is present it will suffer the same fate as the fish. Where this particular heron landed the water was shallow, forming a pool into which the sea trickled intermittently.

With high tide it would. fill up. In such a pool there are always small fish, probably keeping themselves safe from the great, big, wild sea.

The heron did not care, was only interested in acquiring food the only way it knew how. Herons have to build up their strength now for they will start breeding next month.

There were impressive numbers of impressive oyster catchers on the beach. I think the numbers of this bird may well be increasing, although it is always impossible to be certain without a survey.

Perhaps our winter visitors, along with our resident breeders, are up in numbers, and to swell those numbers the birds which headed further south into Europe are now slowly streaming northwards.

Of course you could not blame them if they stayed round for brief holiday. Net result, apparently mole oyster catchers than usual.

Curlews were common, perhaps it was the time of year to be common. Perhaps, like the oyster catchers, their numbers were also swelled by birds from further south stopping off a while before heading further north.

An then there was the flock of knots. But that will keep till another day.

Coming Events

Saturday 2 February - World Wetlands Day, 2pm, at Oxford Island. Enjoy some birdwatching with an expert in attendance.

Follow tradition from the earliest days of Christianity in Ireland and make St Bridget Crosses. More from Castle Espie, 91874146 Lisburn RSPB outing to Carrickfergus and Larne Lough, phone 9262 1866

Saturday 16, Sunday 17 February - Did you ever hear the likes of it? Celebrate St Valentine's Day by making a love nest box for woodland birds. Call Castle Espie on 9187 4146 if you are feeling romantic!

Saturday 16 February - Willow Weaving for your Garden, a workshop at Oxford Island, 1.30 details 3832 2205 Broadwater Bird Watch, at 11.30, further information from Lagan Valley 9049 1922

Monday 25 February - Lisburn RSPB will hear about Hippos, Hoopoes, Hornbills, from Jim Kitchen at 7.30, details from 9260 1864

Thursday 28 February - Birdwatch Morning at 11.30 at Castle Espie, 9178 4146

Saturday 2 March - Lisburn RSPB outing to St John's Point, Killough and Ardglass, details 92601864

March 2002 - RSPBIBirdwatch Ireland, joint conference

Ulster Star