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The forecast warm and sunny weather (which at the time when I booked the osprey hide had been due yesterday) arrived overnight, and I got up to an absolutely glorious day. For the past few weeks almost everyone I know has been complaining about the lateness of spring, and today it felt rather as though the year had decided to put on a spurt and catch up with itself, by missing out spring altogether and sliding directly from winter into summer.

R suggested a cheese scone walk around Croome, and with the schools now back at work I was more than happy to agree. Unusually, my walk was longer than R’s: at the end of our normal circuit around the park he swung back to the cafĂ©, while I turned and went back down the hill to take a look at the Snape and Lickmoor wetlands. These heavily reeded ponds are listed as good birding sites, but before today I hadn’t actually seen a single bird at either one. Today though I spotted a grey heron standing among the reeds at the far side of the larger pool, so I stopped, focused my lens on it and waited for it to do something vaguely interesting.

After a long minute it still hadn’t moved a muscle and there’d been no visible movement of its feathers, and it suddenly occurred to me that it might be a plastic decoy, placed there to deter some other kind of bird (I know from having once had a garden pond that they’re no deterrent at all to other herons). Feeling slightly foolish, but knowing that if it was a living heron it would certainly take off if I marched towards it, I cautiously tiptoed round the edge of the pool; and I’d closed the distance between us from maybe thirty metres to about five when I saw a fractional movement of its neck.

I had to move on a little further to get a reasonable sight line for a photo, and by the time I took this the heron had spotted me and changed its stance – I think it was weighing up the potential threat from the human with not wanting to abandon whatever it had been stalking in the pool. Shortly after this it lost its nerve and took off, but only went a couple of hundred metres away, landing on a grassy slope and shaking itself out in seeming annoyance. Feeling slightly guilty (and by now very hot and sticky) I trudged away, back up the hill to join R, and left it in possession of the wetland.