The Things You Find When Combing For Seaglass

I always consider myself so lucky to have a job and business I never get bored of. Each day there's a new order to create, a new person to meet, or more recently, talk to online or over the phone. I'm also really lucky that part of that job is sourcing some of my materials from beside the coast! Yesterday was one of those days when I scheduled an hour to take my lovely studio assistant and best friend, 'Flower', on a seaglass combing adventure. I say adventure because when you're beside the coast at early o'clock, not long after sunrise, when the beach is quiet aside from a few other early walkers, you never quite know what wonderful things you will find.

Now, I love my doggo but wow she can be impatient and pesky when you're trying to comb for glass, firstly she likes to help with the digging, which is great except she digs in a way that just covers where I'm carefully combing. I always take my camera too but as soon as she see's me reach for my camera she starts barking! So when I spotted these two feathered fishermen I knew I was going to have a bit of challenge on my hands.

The, 'Grey Heron', and 'Little Egret', were not more than 10ft away from where I crouched looking for glass. I went to get my camera and 'Flower', immediately began to bark so I found the nearest distraction, a piece of seaweed, and hid behind a large rock and proceeded to balance my camera and myself while simultaneously throwing seaweed to keep 'Flower' amused so as not to disturb my unsuspecting models. I only tell you all this because as peaceful and relaxing as nature photo's seem more often than not the act of getting them is far from how they appear!

The Grey Heron

Measuring up to 98cm with a wingspan of up to 6ft these interesting looking birds are surprisingly light weighing up to 2kg. They are typically shy so if you want to see one you best get up early and find a quiet rocky coastline, lake, or just keep an eye on your well stocked pond as a your nice fat tasty fish are very tempting. They also don't mind dining on frogs and rats, mmmm yummy!

You would think a long legged bird of this size would nest on the ground but nope, surprisingly agile the heron will choose a nest of thick sticks high in a tree top, although as a last resort, if a tree isn't available they will nest on the ground. Herons are sociable birds and often nest with other Herons in the same tree's, this feathered apartment block is known as a 'Heronry', the largest ever recorded heronry consisted of 400 nests in 1866 in the Great Snowdens Wood in Sussex. Currently the largest Heronry in the UK stands at 150 and can be found at the RSPB Northward Hill Nature Reserve in Kent, at one point the Heronry peaked at 200! They lay up to five eggs once a year hatching one brood between January and May. Superstition says that the fat of a Heron killed at full moon can cure rheumatism, I did say this is superstition so please don't go and try it!

It's not uncommon to see a Heron in the company of an equally interesting although much smaller bird.....

The Little Egret

Considering these pretty birds spend most of their time dashing about in muddy creeks, wadding through rock pools and other wetlands, this bird is so white! Measuring up to 65cm , with a wingspan of 106cm and weighing just 600g, just like their larger Grey Heron relative, they like to dine alfresco on fish and frogs and will also happily snack on a snail or two.

Once considered a rare visitor to our shores, they are increasingly becoming a more common sight possibly due to rising temperatures. Back in 2015 they were added to the conservation 4 red list as a species of conservation concern. Today however, they are on the green list of least critical concern as breeding pairs are recorded as up to 740 by the RSPB with 4500 remaining here during the Winter Months.

Again, like the rest of their Heron family they like a stick nest high in the tree's, although a good bush or reed bed will do just as nicely if a high tree is not available. They lay 3 - 4 eggs in the hope they will hatch 1 brood between April and July each year. Committed and monogamous, choosing a partner for life with both parents sharing the 20 - 25 day incubation period of their eggs.

During the 19th Century the neck plumes of the Little Egret, which are only visible during the Spring and Summer months, were more valuable than gold and were often smuggled into Europe. Laws are now in place to stop this thankfully!

So, although I had dreadful cramp, nearly fell in a couple of rock pools while trying to keep the dog from barking and found absolutely zero pieces of seaglass, I did find two beautiful Herons and started my day with a huge smile.

I highly recommend combing for seaglass as you just don't know what else you might find.

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