Monday 17 December 2012

There was a Grey Heron swimming in the Long Water near the Peter Pan statue.

At first I thought it was standing in water that was deeper than usual, but then I saw that it was gradually drifting downwind. It managed to swim back with slow, inefficient movements of its long legs. It saw what may have been a fish in the water and lunged at it, but completely missed its prey because the downward movement of its neck caused its body to rock back. Herons are very accurate when they have their feet on the ground, but not when afloat.

When I saw a young Mute Swan in one of the little pools in the Italian Garden a few days ago, I thought that it had blundered in by accident or had been chased off the Long Water by the belligerent resident male swan. But it has now been joined by another, and they seem to be perfectly happy in this small space, and were begging for food from visitors.

It is not at all clear how they get in and out of the pool. There are duckboards at the edge of each pool that they can walk up, but from there it is a long hike to the nearest place where they can get into the main lake, at the Vista. Probably they have to fly, taking off awkwardly from the ground with a desperate waddling run of 30 yards, which gives the impression that they will never make it into the air.

At the other end of the lake, the swans are showing remarkable boldness in strolling through the crowds at the Winter Wonderland funfair. They have learnt that people either feed them or are frightened of them. The old myth that a swan can break your leg with one blow of its wing is a useful protection for them.

A pure white dove was surveying the fair from a dead tree before plunging into the crowd to scavenge discarded hamburgers.


  1. Was the swimming heron a first for you? I have certainly never seen one doing that myself.

  2. No, I've never seen a Grey Heron swimming before. But they must do it fairly often, when they wade out and the water gets too deep. I have seen a photograph of a Bittern swimming, so evidently this behaviour is usual in herons.