Radipole Lake RSPB Reserve, Weymouth
Tuesday October 16th 2012
The last two weeks have been very memorable ones at Radipole for heron enthusiasts with no less than four species to see.
Grey Herons are always present, as are Little Egrets - at least since the 1970s when they first arrived from Europe.
Bitterns are a regular winter visitor and the third most common of the herons here.
The fourth species seen was the rare Purple Heron, not purple in its juvenile plumage but a rich chestnut brown.
The Bittern and Purple Heron will have to wait until another week but I did manage to get some film of this Little Egret feeding just in front of the North Hide.
These egrets have a very active feeding technique, dashing around in shallow water trying to surprise shoals of small fish.
In this next sequence it tries another technique that involves a foot being waggled about in the water.
Presumably this disturbs fish hiding in the vegetation, but there is a theory that the yellow colour of the feet actually attracts fish towards the egret.
Well, they must be yellow for a reason.
Grey herons are much less energetic than little egrets.
Being too big to dash around after small fish they use an ambush technique, standing very still until something drifts past that they can eat.
And they can eat almost anything, eels, frogs, rats, anything that will fit down its throat. Even small ducks.
I don't mean little baby ducklings, I mean a small adult duck like a teal.
Just look at the size of the bill in this next sequence.
This next heron is busy saving energy.
In the brightest part of the day it doesn't bother trying to fish, the fish can see it too easily.
Instead it saves energy by standing absolutely still for hours on end.
Not only this but it is standing in the sun but out of the wind, well nearly out of the wind.
This isn't laziness, it's how all predators manage to balance the energy requirements of a very costly way of life.
I just had to add this sequence filmed four days after I wrote the above entry.
Today I finally actually managed to film a heron make a strike - even if it did only catch a reed!
Even though this is filmed at 60 frames per second to slow the motion down to half normal speed, the actual strike is still over too quick to see.
I'll have to try again at an even higher speed.