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Nature watch with Trevor Beer

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 06, 2012

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Steady downpour, the mosaic of cracked soil caused by recent hot sunshine on wet ground already softening under the onslaught of yet another wet day. A young buzzard perches disconsolately watching the day a couple of hundred yards from the stick nest it hatched in to see its first daylight. Soon it will fly as an independent bird to seek its own patch but for now it will remain about, its parents nearby, and maybe they will help it with another meal or two before its final dispersal move. It is hunched and silent.

On the high ground overlooking the saltings a grey heron stands watching the river. It, too, is hunched, its long neck sunk into its shoulders, dagger-like bill protruding, long green legs and grey plumage part of the grassland and rain clouds.

Herons are catholic in their food tastes and it should not be thought that they are only fish eaters. I have seen them catch rats on a nearby farm, dipping them in water first before swallowing, and here in rabbit field saw a heron run with long strides after a hunting stoat, kill it then dip it into a water crowfoot filled galley of water and swallow it. At Braunton near Horsey Island four of us sat on the riverbank watching nine herons walking in line abreast, hunting small mammals at a time when there was virtually a plague of them. Indeed they were so plentiful for a while that buzzards, kestrels and barn owls were all hunting together.

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