It was interesting recently, when sorting out some images for a talk, to see that the bird I have photographed most since taking up bird photography a couple of years ago, is the Grey Heron. I began to think why this might be and if it reflected anything about myself or the bird or perhaps a little of both.
Certainly it is a widespread species and therefore occurs in most habitats that I find myself in. Only the highest moors and mountains seem out of range for this ubiquitous bird. But there is more …… it’s a bird that that excites in so many ways. For sheer size and power it’s impressive yet has wonderful grace and poise when stalking its prey.
It makes a superb subject; large enough to fill the frame, always likely to strike at a speed that tests all your skills and beautifully sculptured, producing poses that are forever changing. In entering a hide, when a Heron is present, the heart skips a beat and the anticipation of what lies ahead is palpable.
It’s also a bird which takes me back to my earliest recollection of wild places. As a family, in the mid-sixties, we holidayed in Scotland, staying in a remote cottage in the hills above Kilmelford and these memories are encapsulated by the Heron. It still, today, stalks the shores of the lochs all along the West Coast as it did back then and to a young lad of six or seven it was a big bird and one I wasn’t used to seeing in the suburbs of Liverpool, where we lived. It simply evoked the spirit of wildness. It did then, as it does now, and anyone who asks “Why are you taking another Heron?” fails to understand both the nature of photography and the pull that a remarkable bird can have on the psyche of an individual.
I will always have a special relationship with the Heron and with an estimated 14,000 breeding pairs in Britain at the moment, and with numbers on the increase, I think it will be a front runner in my files for many years to come.