There is an irony that a bird I used to chase out of the garden when I was a young boy, lest it gobble up the goldfish and shubunkins, now has me skulking around the reserve in trepidation of disturbing it.

Ardea cinera, more commonly known as the grey heron, perhaps gets a bit of short shrift from birders and gardeners with water features.  While I can understand why those with ponds would not want to see one of these statuesque monsters peering intently over their garden gnomes and nasturtiums at beacon bright fish, that foolishly venture far too close to the surface, I’ve never really tired of seeing herons – despite their relative abundance. 

I can’t help think, if I was in another country and you told me about an enormous bird with a retractable neck, spear-gun bill and incredibly agile flight, which makes giant nests in trees like some sort of prehistoric pterodactyl throwback, I would be falling over myself to see it.

So, the prospect of witnessing courtship, nesting and fledging on Marazion Marsh has certainly piqued my interest. Of course, it is more than simple curiosity.  As I mentioned last week, we have reed to clear and burn around the reserve and need to complete this before nesting begins, which is typically in early February.

I was therefore slightly agitated on Monday when, while completing my infrastructure checks, I spied a group of five heron loitering around in the reed together. Not renowned for being a typically sociable bird, I was beginning to resign myself to leaving stacks of reed un-burnt until the end of the summer. 

Subsequent visits to the marsh have seen me frantically scanning the reedbed with binoculars glued to my eyes and providing an active commentary to the work party on the movements of every heron I have seen flitting between patches of open water. Fortunately, the team are a lot more level headed than me and brimming with stacks of experience and knowledge about the reserve.  They know exactly where we can and can’t venture to avoid disturbing them.  Not that there have been any categorical signs of nesting just yet, but you can never be too careful can you?!


Grey heron
Photo - Phill Catton

If nesting herons mark The Move to spring, then we obviously aren’t quite there yet. But, with daffodils and marsh marigolds already popping up on the reserve, it could be just around the corner.  I wonder if spring in Cornwall involves less rain.

I shouldn’t complain, as this week we have had no less than two relatively dry days!!  Meaning, we have been able to make great progress finishing off all the sensitive areas without any disturbance issues.  Admittedly though, our speedy progress has at times made the marsh has looked a bit like the pits of Mordor with smoke stacks billowing up over it.  Controlled burns like these do require some planning and thought and we always consider wind direction, public safety and notify fire control to mitigate any issues.  Although, one concerned person did phone the office to check whether we knew the marsh was ablaze!  For the record, it really wasn’t, although we did appreciate them making the effort to call and inform us.

So while my attention has been firmly on the herons and what turns out to be their lack of courtship, a lot of eyes have been looking across the road at the glossy ibis which has turned up in a neighbouring arable field. Personally, I‘m desperate to see it on the marsh so that I can legitimately add it to the reserve records.  In fact, it doesn’t even need to touch down, in our airspace will do!

Glossy ibis
Photo courtesy of Roger Salter

A bit like the little egret, which has transitioned from a rarity to a mainstay amongst British birds, the glossy ibis is becoming an increasingly frequent visitor from southern Europe. It is however still rare enough to generate a lot of local interest. 

This one seemed remarkably obliging to put on a good show. I speculate this is perhaps because it has heard the positive news that an overwhelming majority of 592 MEPs (to 52) listened to over 500,000 of us and voted to defend nature and support the review of EU’s Biodiversity Strategy – a review that calls for better implementation of the important Nature Directives and opposes any weakening and watering down of the legislation.

For those who have been involved in this campaign, it has occasionally felt like a never ending procession of petitions and lobbying. To recollect, we first responded to the public consultation, then we wrote message to Rory Stewart calling for him to clearly signal the UK’s support for the directives, and finally we contacted all our MEPs to explain why we will believe so passionately that nature needs defending and calling on them to democratically reflect the public’s will in their vote.

Since nature conservation and calling for protection of wildlife can all too frequently feel like a Sisyphean task, it is important to recognise moments such as these and to celebrate the achievements that are possible when lots of people, who all believe in similar ideals, make their voices heard.

So that brings me to my final thought for the week. Fortheloveof.org.uk is the Climate Coalition’s website.  This represents the UK’s largest group of people dedicated to action on climate change and aspires for a world with 100% clean energy within a generation.  If this is something that you care about and you haven’t already, you can see the latest video and read more about the impacts of climate change on their website, where you can, if you wish, sign up to follow the campaign.

Phill

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