Sunart – Heron Watching Frogs March 08

On the way to work I often find myself lingering at the deep drainage ditches that run along the side of road. Long streaks of toad spawn, or dense clusters of frog spawn, sometimes something a little more exciting – perhaps a common newt. I used to walk this road to school; we would squat by an old wall looking for insects and amphibians in the water. I have children myself now, and having not seen a newt for years, I seem to encounter them frequently. It may be because my eye is closer to the ground. That day, cycling to work, I note the squashed outline of frogs and toads on tarmac. Then, passing the ditch below my father’s croft, a large grey shape takes to the air, settling a few metres from the road. A Grey Heron. You become so used to seeing these sentinels silhouetted by the shore it seems unworldly to come upon them by a roadside ditch. Wheeling up to my fathers for a better view I tell him of the encounter. Below the house the heron, still as a fence post, is waiting for frogs and toads. My father tells me that yesterday he drove past the grey shape, and then reversed the car to watch the unmoved bird. It only took flight when he wound down the window. For the next few days I cycle cautiously along the road, looking for an undisturbed encounter – its not to be.