Heron changes its feeding practices


With almost non-stop rain since the beginning of the year, the appearance of the sun on Sunday (albeit temporary) was enough of an incentive to get out into the countryside.

Since we got our new pup Treacle, she had never seen this strange glowing orb in the sky since she was allowed out after her injections and was beginning to develop webbed feet and gills.

A trip to Innerleithen was decided on and the size of the Tweed en route, flowing level with its banks, was a warning about the ground conditions we were about to experience.

Huge areas of standing water in the flat fields on the approach to Walkerburn were being appreciated by assorted gulls, ducks and the occasional heron.

The latter bird must be finding it really difficult to feed at the moment with consistently high river levels making catching small fish virtually impossible.

Luckily, the heron is extremely omnivorous and can turn its beak to an amazing range of available food in order to survive.

This was borne out as I nearly hit one with the car near Holylee, as it feasted on a dead rabbit by the roadside.

Instead of flying off to the side it flew in front of me at windscreen height and I had to slow right down and follow it for a few hundred yards until it saw a gap in the trees and headed for the river.

The drivers in the queue of cars behind me must have wondered what was going on.

Once at Innerleithen, we set off down the riverside path below the Traquair Bridge, which was extremely muddy and provided a few heart-stopping moments as Treacle wandered too close to the raging river, her curiosity knowing no bounds.

Although the sun was shining, there was an icy wind and the hills around the village were capped with a dusting of snow.

Birdlife on the river was nil, but once we turned back towards the village we encountered another heron, this time standing on the path.

I managed a quick snap before it, too, flew off.

It was along this section, where the path borders the Leithen Water, that I heard another water bird singing its head off.

It was a dipper, which was obviously undeterred by the power of the spate and was quite relaxed – a case of business as usual, unlike the heron.