HERON. The common heron or heronshaw (Ardea Major. Linn.) is remarkably light in proportion
scarcely a fish, however large, that he will not strike at, though unable to carry it away; but the smaller fry are his principal subsistence; these, pursued by their larger fellows of the deep, take refuge in shallows, where they find the heron a still more formidable enemy. He wades as far as he can go into the water, and patiently awaits the approach of his prey, which he darts npon with inevitable aim. His usual attitude in fishing is to sink his long neck between his shoulders, and keep his head turned on one side, as if to watch the water more intently.
To take herons: bait an eel-hook with a roach or small eel; lay the bait in the water where it is about six inches deep, taking the precaution to fasten the line securely to the side or on the bank of the stream.
With our ancestors, heron-hawking stood pre-eminent as a field sport; and laws were enacted for the preservation of the species ; a penalty of 20s. was imposed on any person taking the eggs.
Not to know the hawk from the heron shaw, is an old proverb, originating from this diversion, but in course of time absurdly corrupted to " He does not know a hawk from a hand-saw." The heron, too, was regarded as one of the greatest dainties of the table, and although the sportsmen of the old school have handed down the fact, they have neglected to state the manner in which it was rendered so highly palatable. It was then said that the flesh of a heron was a dish for a king; at present, nothing about the house will touch it but a cat.
However numerous the heron tribe may be, all differing in size, figure, and plumage, they have but one characterócowardice, rapacity, indolence, yet insatiable hunger. Though the heron lives chiefly on the banks of rivers and in marshes, it builds its nest, made of sticks and lined with wool, on the tops of the highest trees, and sometimes on cliffs overhanging the sea, in which the female deposits four large eggs of a pale green colour. Their depredations are committed in solitude and silence ; but in the spring the heron becomes gregarious, and, like the rook, fearlessly approaches the habitations of man, building its nest in company with a number of its kind. When the young are excluded, the old ones are constantlv upon the wing to provide them with food. It must be conceded, however, that, in wild and marshy districts, great numbers form their nests, and rear their young on the ground, among reeds, &c. Mr. Daniel says, " 1 have taken both the eggs and young herons from the very numerous nests formed among the reeds by the side of the fleets belonging to Mr. Bennet, at Iollesbury in Essex."
Harewood, Harry. A Dictionary of Sports. London: T. Tegg and son, 1835._
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