There are accounts of breeding grey herons dating back to 1710 at Loch Leven. As with many top predators they were discouraged in less enlightened time, but the number of breeding birds has increased since the mid-seventies from 3 pairs to the low twenties. Their number has stayed pretty much the same in the last 15 years.
As herons are quite early nesters we count them in late March or early April. It’s a nice easy survey to undertake. We’ll sit nearby and wait for the birds to raise from their nests. Many of the other heronries in the UK are counted annually as part of a national census coordinated by the British Trust of Ornithology. Heron numbers are dropping in some parts of their UK range so it is important that we keep a handle of numbers.
When you are at the Kirkgate cemetery look across to the Loch Leven Castle, you should be able to see the birds sat in the trees.
The youngsters have hatched already. Their guttural calls can be heard coming from the nests. I even found some hatched eggs underneath their nests.
A view from underneath on Castle Island
Herons have a beautiful light blue egg similar in size to a hens egg. They lay up to four eggs that they incubate for about a month. It takes nearly two months for birds to fledge so you can see why they nest so early.
All going well you should be able to the young herons exercising their wings by late May and they leave the nest shortly after that.
Our grand total this year was 21 active nests this year. Both Neil and I counted them and we came up with the same figure.