By John Gooday
With its slow, deliberate flight and a wingspan of nearly two metres, the Grey Heron is one of our most dramatic native birds, and the largest one likely to visit our gardens. Not that it is always welcome, mind you, because it can have a devastating effect on unprotected fish ponds. More often, though, you will see the heron standing motionless in the shallow waters of slow-flowing rivers, streams and lakes, patiently waiting to pounce on unsuspecting prey. Herons don’t only use their long, dagger-like beaks to catch fish; they will also take frogs, insects, small mammals and birds. Once systematically persecuted by fishermen and fish farmers, herons are now fully protected by law, and thanks to this their numbers have been gradually increasing over the last decade or two. They are now fairly common throughout the Dales, and can be seen all year round. Herons generally hunt alone, but they prefer to nest in groups, known as heronries. Heronries are usually built in trees, and they can be home to hundreds of nesting birds, although here in Yorkshire the numbers involved tend to be far more modest. Herons lay their eggs in early spring. These take around a month to hatch, and the young birds that survive to adulthood can expect to live for around five years — although individuals who have survived for over twenty years have occasionally been recorded.
John Gooday specialises in wildlife images, and he travels extensively in the UK, continental Europe and Southern Africa to photograph birds, animals and – occasionally – landscapes. His meticulous studies combine technical sophistication with an artist’s eye for a winning composition.
To see a slideshow of John’s gorgeous photographs – and find out how to purchase a limited edition print – visit www.johngoodayphotography.com.