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The also-rans: Herons, a success story

by Darren

The grey heron is another one of those species that some people love to hate, mainly if they keep fish in a garden pond because herons (naturally) take from them if they’re not properly covered.

Yet despite this it really is an environmental success story.

The BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition used to have a category called ‘The world in our hands’ and every time I picked up one of the books I’d look at the sad images of wildlife which had zoocosis due to being kept in confined spaces, or bears in the far east with a catheter permanently inserted to draw out bile which is sought after (and therefore profitable) as a traditional remedy.  They profoundly affected me and contributed to my dislike of keeping animals in captivity, but I always thought there was another story to tell.

Grey herons are that story.  For years the number in Britain declined due to dirty rivers which took away their food supply.  We cleaned them up, and they’re on the rise again and flourishing in certain parts of the UK including inner London where I regularly see them in a variety of locations.  A couple of years back I looked for every heron opportunity I could get in the hope of putting the images, and the story, in to the competition.

Alas when the entry forms came out they’d dropped the category.  Oh well, I had fun taking the pictures and I still do – I saw this one at about 5.30am earlier this year.  I love their gawky appearance and their distinctive yet awkward looking flight.

While stories of human cruelty and destruction of the natural world are all too common, let’s congratulate ourselves when we get something right such as our collective success with these wonderful birds.

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