Thursday, 24 April 2014

Heronry Census with Professor David Norman

After a long but exciting wait I was finally able to get my chance to count the Herons as part of the Heronry Census coordinated by the BTO with Professor David Norman.

I was really glad to be out, and the Heron Counting started really well by straight away looking up to see a reasonably large Heron sat perched on a huge nest, obviously active due to all the white wash either on the bottom layer of the nest or the branches just below. 

Here it is again below, this time about to fly off.
We could also tell this was in use because of the broken egg shells littered all around the base of the tree (the eggs are normally a dark blue, however you normally see them more of a light blue colour because of the white wash covering the egg).

They were very interesting to watch, and it wasn't just heron eggs we found on the floor of the wood, in fact there was also one or two possible duck species which looked predated.

Normally when we looked up, a lot of the nests were in the Pine Trees, and as shown in the picture the nest can be rather small and even very see through. Normally they were quite a bit bigger however even the smallest of nests had activity including this one, and quite a few other nest of which a similar size. It mad me wonder how those bid chicks managed to stay in.

On the way back from the heronry we count we called in to see the land owner which David taught me is a very important part of the count. We were able to thank the land owner and report back to him on how the heronry count had gone.

It wasn't just Heron nests we found. Towards the edge of this hedge below, Professor Norman and I found a Dunnock's nest holding 3 lovely blue eggs, also great to see.  We also found the start of a Long Tailed Tit's nest, which looked very peculiar, with two separate parts to it.  It is always good to be out with someone else who thinks it is quite normal to have your head in a hedge.

Whilst counting the Herons we also got to do a little bird watching, the Buzzards and Rooks kept us entertained (as well as the Herons of course).

Overall, we counted 70 nests in use this year, this may seem a lot however Heron nest numbers here are dropping; so I wanted to ask if any of you had any thoughts on this? It will be interesting to see how the heronry counts across the country have gone and how overall numbers are doing. 

I want to say a really big thank you to Professor David Norman for letting me help and for sharing all his knowledge with me. I really did learn a lot, even how to recognise raptor poo!


  1. very nice that you thanked the landowner! i'd love to find a heron's nest here - i know they nest locally.

  2. Great post Finlay, your so lucky.


  3. Another wonderful post Findlay... I hope I bump into you soon.

  4. Hi Finlay Wow! what a wonderful experience you had to be out with the Professor and to learn so much and have great fun doing it. Your shots are great especially the flight one. Have a great weekend.

  5. What a wonderful privilege you had, Findlay. There's nothing quite like a heronry with its noise and activity. I always find it strange that, away from the heronry, they seem to be very solitary birds, yet they obviously like nesting in quite large colonies. I guess it's something to do with hunting alone reducing the competition for resources.

    Keep up the good work - - Richard

  6. Hi Findlay
    I collate the counts for the Heronries Census at the BTO's headquarters in Thetford. We're very grateful to the thousands of volunteers who have kept this annual survey going (and growing) since 1928! Many thanks for your part in this and for telling everyone about it through your blog.