Red in tooth and claw
We live near the River. On Sunday a walk up to Hammersmith and down the Fulham side. We would buy a Fulham FC soccer top for a remote Canadian cousin and expensive olives and dried tomatoes from the market in Bishops Park. But on our way we saw a pitiful sight.
As the river gets cleaner so the herons move closer to the City to catch fish and eels. They are now common in the Putney shallows. At low tide one stood as they sometimes do, in pointless, motionless solitude. Its melancholy wings tucked away. Just standing as they do, hunched against the unseasonal wind.
Then a seagull started to mob. It dived and squawked, the heron ducked and opened its beak in defence. The gull dived like some alien drone ,again and again. The heron ducking but not diving,like some ungainly kid in the playground being attacked by more street wise lads, the bigger lad new to the school not knowing why nor how to defend itself. The seagull as they do in this stretch enjoying itself as the brightest and most bare faced of all the bird life.
And after thirty or so attacks,no doubt the point made,the sea gull went back to his mates on the mud flats ,no doubt chortling over the terror he had struck in the bigger bird.
I Googled for an explanation. Crows and seagulls often mob bigger birds when they feel their nests maybe under threat. But this was not the case. The best I came up with on the RSPB web site wast
“They also mob non-predators such as grey herons, whose large size and flight silhouette they mistake for a bird of prey. In some species like crows and gulls the harassing behaviour characteristic to mobbing is also seen in other behaviours including food robbing.”
So the poor old defenceless heron was being attacked because of mistaken identity. Like so much city violence a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.