To me these big birds don’t look at home in the air – a heavy-winged, dark presence, like a modern-day pterodactyl – but when you spot them statuesque in the shallows of the Wharfe, the shapes all make sense. Ghost-like, they blend into the background surprisingly well, and the long neck and beak are perfect for a lightning-quick stab at an unfortunate fish, frog or bird (and even occasionally a mole). They also look incongruous when nesting high up in a tree, with a mess of a nest, and preposterous-looking young sporting punky haircuts. They nest in colonies, and the surnames Earnshaw and Hernshaw mean “Heron Wood”. Roast heron was once a specially-prized dish. In 1465, at the meal to celebrate the appointing of the new Archbishop of York (who I think owned a lot of Otley, and had a “palace” here), 400 herons were served to guests.
Photos by Pixabay