Blue Herons That Aren’t, And Chocolate Fish That Are!

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!

Eggstraordinary Incubator

I’ve finally put the egg incubator Father Christmas brought me to work. And at a rather appropriate time, seeing as how eggs feature rather significantly at Easter time.

incubator eggs

It’s currently housing two abandoned but still-warm duck eggs. It’s a very small, neat affair that will hold up to seven eggs. The only disappointment is that it doesn’t automatically turn the eggs, which is what Father Christmas was led to believe it would do – he feels slightly miffed. I’ve looked it up, and eggs need to be turned at least three times each day so that’s not too irksome. Somewhat bizarrely, this incubator comes with music and lights. A mini-disco for baby ducks? A duckso? You’d have thought it might be more useful to employ that computing power for something like turning eggs perhaps…

STOP PRESS!

I’ve been up to check the incubator and it had reached 41 degrees, when its max was set to 38 degrees. Not good, and it’s not only Santa who’s now feeling disappointed. I removed the eggs before they got cooked and played around with the incubator for while. I ran it a few more times, each time it steadily got hotter and hotter. For the heck of it I had a quick play with the lights and music setting. There are three flashing lights at the back of the incubator and a selection of half a dozen truly awful tunes that are on a par with those awful ones you get in birthday cards.

Looks like a spaceship about to take off!

Looks like a spaceship about to take off!

So the incubator is now deactivated and the duck eggs are in a more reliable incubator – i.e. under the imaginatively-named Grey Chicken who is fortunately broody at the moment. Let’s hope we’ll have some little henlings or duckens in a few weeks’ time!

incubator reliable