heron in irelandIs that it? The sunshine has gone and the drizzle has swept back scrubbing those clean, clear skies into a watery grey blur.The windows are already spotting with rain droplets and the ragged leaves on the cherry tree are already beginning to tear away in the looming breeze. I hate this getting up to the grimy dullness again . That clear , crisp run of days through September until early October were an aberration, too sweet an anomaly to last indefinitely. There is a cosmic preference here for the “soft”, dampish day.
Only yesterday afternoon we were walking alongside Blackwater river near the castle ruin .A pheasant toddled out from the bushes, looking as though it had lost its sense of direction or reason and then scuttled back into the bracken undergrowth of safety .We stood momentarily to look at the weir and I prattled on about the Atlantic Irish salmon, the “bradan” , leaping up through the flowing water barriers and falls to get upstream and spawn. They come back every year to climb back up through the downward flow of assorted pollution , drawn to their origin, lay their eggs to restart the life -cycle again.I wondered how many of them make it these days.My late uncle Joey used to help manage the fish in the rivers. They ‘d be close to the end of their season, I imagined , it getting well into Autumn. I wittered on wondering, temporarily stopping to marvel at the beauty of the setting, wreathed in warm sunshine like the summer’s days we never actually had this year.This was surely the best of the year…right in this very stolen moment . A startled heron which we’d disturbed fishing , took to the wing, lazily beating a slow rythmn as it climbed slowly above the ripple of the river.I’ve often wondered whether or not these are the same bird as the cranes that we watched nesting on the rooftops of Marrakech , but apparently the heron is the only one of that kind that lives in Ireland . The crane , on the other hand, must enjoy the warmer North African climate alittle more , because it’s never seen here.
It’s always a rare privilege to espy a wild creature as elegant as this large bird. It doesn’t happen too often for me .It’s usually at this Autumnal time when they seem to make their quiet , solitary appearance, usually near a waterway.I might see one, once every year in some incongruous places .They’ve been known to prog koi from garden ponds right in the the middle of the urban sprawl. I’m used to seeing plenty of squirrels and wild rabbits quietly grazing or scampering among the trees but something as impressive as a languid heron has an almost fairytale quality to it .Their size among all the usual crows, pigeons , magpies, wood-pigeons and the like is startling. Isaw one on my walk along the river bank in the heart of last winter , gliding silently in the frosty stillness.I saw one fishing on the seashore a few weeks ago, at the edge of the ocean in Donegal as we walked along the deserted beach, but it was quite distant.This siting was much more impressive .The bird arose only yards away, bold as brass, stretching to its full outstretched wing-width of about two metres, its long ochre beak a very evident flash of colour , its head coiled back swanlike and its white and grey plumage catching the bright sunlight.Apparently herons mate for life but I didn’t see this one’s partner if it had one.One curious thing about the heron among birds is that it does not moult its feathers, but like a shark’s teeth they continuously grow as the end of the feather disintegrates. I suppose that means that you’ll never find a loose heron feather fluttering on the wind.
Of course it was gone before I’d pulled my fumbled phone from its snug pocket to attempt a photographic memory.Isn’t that always the way? It’ll just have to hang there as a vague sketch in the back of my mind.