The Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) is one of the UK’s largest birds, standing short of a metre tall, and with a wingspan a little less than two metres. With their impressive beaks they seem almost Pterodactyl-like when seen in flight, and their distinctive, long and deep squawk just adds to that. You might miss seeing them, as they often visit ponds at first or last light. The only hint may be a discarded fine feather floating on the water… or the lack of fish! You are unlikely to lose all of your fish in one visit, though it may seem like that, as the remaining fish often keep a very low profile for some weeks or months afterwards. (If all the fish have gone, might it be otters?)
There are plenty of herons in the UK, possibly helped by the fact that they are a protected species. They usually roost in rural treetops but can travel long distances and are common visitors to city centre ponds. An adult heron needs up to half a kilogram of food a day, and they will persist to obtain it, be that fish, frogs, voles, insects or even young birds.
Ornamental ponds with brightly coloured carp and goldfish can be easy pickings for herons, especially in the cool of the spring and the winter when the fish are sluggish and plant cover is lacking.
I’m often asked how to stop herons taking fish. There are various options and this is my experience on how they stack up: Continue reading