Monday, 24 May 2010

The Fight for Life.

I can’t get over just how many Yellowhammers can be heard every time I step outside my door. They’re singing all over the place! Add to this the omnipresent cascading warble from the Willow Warbler, the rambling natter from the Skylark and the chattering Swallows and House Martins overhead and you’ve got the cacophony of summer in your own back garden! And that’s us on a street full of houses; what’s it like for those whose houses are in the fields and woodland surrounding Nairn!

On another subject, anyone walking along the River Nairn surely can’t fail to be impressed by the elegance of the Grey Heron stalking its prey. There are currently two Heron on the river most days, standing motionless on the shore, eye’s piercing the water and waiting to pounce. You can see its long, thin neck with the crest twitching in the wind. I love watching it move serenely across the rocks, treading carefully so as not to disturb the river bed and betraying its presence to the life below.

A few days ago I observed the other side of this beautiful bird; a demonstration of how live in the wild is tough and how the birds do not always live up to the delicate picture we create. The Heron was stalking its prey and then with a sudden and deadly thrust of its beak, its head darted into the water and came up with its trophy; this time an eel. Job done? Not quite. On this occasion the eel wrapped itself around the Heron’s long bill in a desperate fight for survival. The bird swung its head violently from side to side trying to reposition the eel. Struggling to do so, it threw the eel against the rocks and started to prod it with its bill. It then picked off the seaweed from the eel and picked it up again, only for the eel to quickly wrap itself around the bill again! Now the Heron managed to untangle a porting of the eel and it banged it against the rock. But still it fought for its life and clung on to the bill. Eventually it had to give up; and it was gone!

Not long afterwards the Nairn Swans approached the Heron; seeing it as a threat to their brood; which of course it is! Not long ago a TV crew were filming a Grey Heron and regaling the beauty of the bird, only to catch on film the moment that Heron decided to change its target from the fish under the water to the Moorhen chick on it – and in one fail swoop grabbed and swallowed the chick. Not quite the image the film crew were hoping to portray! But that’s nature. It doesn’t always live up to our human sensibilities; and long may that continue.

The Nairn Birder


  1. saw one last night at the harbour and he was busy fishing got a few fish in the time we were watching him. got some photos of him close up he did not seem that worried about me watching him.

  2. Hi William. The Herons on the River Nairn do seem very approachable! And they are very elegant and photogenic. I must remember my camera next time!

  3. hi you can see the photo on the gurn from nurn. i got very close too him and thought he would fly away but he stayed and i got a few shots of him. was lucky being in the right place and at the right time he was very busy fishing which helped me. i carry a camera most of the time now as you never know what you will see.
    all the best