March 16, 2012

The breakfast club


This morning I found that the pond in the Nature Garden is clotted with spawn – more so than I remember in previous years. Will it be a bumper spring for frogs and toads?

By the path I found part of a heron's feather, broad, downy at the base and slate-blue. He'll have come to gorge on the adults as they mate and spawn: easy pickings, you might think. Unfair, even.

Yet it's easy to condemn the predators, pity the prey: to want to defend the fledgling blue tits against the sparrowhawk, the hedgehog against the badger. But every creature has to eat, and this annual feast is an important part of the heron's year: a chance to get in condition before the breeding season starts, and a lifesaver when there's been a long, icy winter with little food.

Given the glut of spawn in the pond just waiting to turn into a new crop of frogs and toads, it's hard to begrudge the grey pastor a few of the grown-ups.