Sunday, 7 February 2010
When William E H Pidsley's book The Birds of Devonshire was published 1n 1891 he reported that:
"Several fine Heronries exist in the county. At Powderham Park, the seat of the Earl of Devon, the herons nest in some ancient oak trees close to the castle."
The heronry is still there and is said to be the largest in the county. So the herons have been nesting there for at least one century . They may well have been there as long as the Earls of Devon. The Powderham herons regularly fish the channels at low water but at high tide they fly far afield often flapping across the wide Estuary to travel East and eat rats and toads and whatever they can find in the fields and ditches. They regularly pass over my house and, when we had them, would drop in for a goldfish by way of antipasto.
When, in the early years of the last century, Richard Jefferies was sojourning on the higher reaches of the Exe he found the local people calling the herons "cranes" and heronries "craneries". And Coward writing of the heron in 1920 tells us "In many parts it is still called the 'Crane'." Of course they look like cranes when they are jerking up and down on the mud flats. They also look like siege engines. The collective term for them is 'a siege of heron.'