Public domain photo of heron by A. Schmidt

Public domain photo of heron by A. Schmidt

We’ve been seeing a couple of unusually dark, muddy-brown herons hanging around our lakes the last few days. I suspected they might be purple herons, but having looked at photos of them online, I’m not so sure. Possibly blue herons then? Yes, I know I said they were brownish looking but I’ve quickly learned, thanks to Google, that blue herons often aren’t blue, and even when they are then they can look brown in certain light. All very confusing.

So I did more Googling about blue herons and whether they’re found in France. After about a zillion hits for the Blue Heron French Cheese Factory, Blue Heron editions publishing, Blue Heron restaurant and Blue Heron Pharmaceuticals, not forgetting the power sail squadron and choir of that name too (would you ever have guessed blue and heron were such a popular combination?) I finally found some relevant entries that have left me none the wiser, although I think I’m now right in saying that blue herons stick to the US.

This whole field of bird recognition strikes me as rather confusing. I remember Bill Oddie once saying that if you see a grey, white-breasted, long-legged, three-eyed bird then the chances are that it is called the grey, white-breasted, long-legged, three-eyed bird. However, I think he was rather over-simplifying things. As I hinted earlier, it turns out the blue heron is anything but blue. The Great Blue has slate-grey wing feathers, red-brown thighs, a pair of red-brown and black stripes up the flanks, a rusty grey neck with black and white streaking down the front, a pale head with a nearly white face, and a pair of black plumes running from just above the eye to the back of the head. Did anyone spot any blue? Elsewhere the descriptions begin to sound like maths problems. For example, “Great Blue Herons are roughly twice as heavy as Great Egrets, although only slightly taller than them, but can themselves weigh about half as much as a large Goliath Heron”! So therefore, how many Great Egrets equal one Goliath Heron, and what colour are the teacher’s socks?

I think I’ll stick with muddy brown heron for my bird!

There are some other interesting birds around at the moment. Our swallows are reappearing, there’s a cuckoo calling every day, the woodpeckers are battering themselves silly, the nightjar is singing its heart out every night, and various tits and finches and other songbirds are whistling and trilling all day long. It’s a veritable orchestra outside these days.

And our boopy beetle is back. Well, that’s what we call him. During the warm weather, spring to mid-autumn, he goes boop at night. He caused me great consternations the first time I heard him a few years back. I thought it was a malfunctioning electrical device but we eventually worked out it was a critter. I’m rather fond of him now. I’ve still no idea what he is. If you Google beetle and boop you end up with articles about Betty Boop! A bit more digging with ‘France’ added and I came across a beetle in French Guyana that grows to the size of a Chihuahua so I decided to stop there as that was definitely the stuff of nightmares! I’ll suss our beetle out one day though…

Finally, I haven’t forgotten it’s Easter so Joyeuses Pâques. It’s certainly a happy one for Ruadhri! He successfully completed his treasure hunt and found his very French chocolate Easter fish.

Yup, I know, that picture's wonky!

Yup, I know, that picture’s wonky!