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Could we have seen a flock of 15 herons flying together?

Sent in by Jacqueline Bradley, Brinsley, Notts

It is quite possible you observed a flock of grey herons. They are often seen alone, but can gather in numbers too.

Herons are most often seen flying along water courses at low level as they move between feeding areas. They are strong fliers with distinctive slow-flapping wingbeats on strongly curved wings. They fly with their head and neck tucked in and their legs protruding beyond their tails. If they are flying longer distances, for example to a roosting site or while on migration, you can see them flying much higher. They occasionally use thermals to gain height, much like birds of prey.

Grey herons are resident in the UK all year round, but do migrate in parts of their range, generally to avoid harsh weather or to move to better foraging grounds after breeding.

I witnessed a flock migrating across the Bay of Biscay a couple of years ago. Seeing a flock of herons in the middle of the ocean was quite a surprise. With regard to the birds you observed, I would think that they were heading to a roost - favoured sites are areas of large trees near water.

Grey herons do roost communally and nest in heronries, which can hold large numbers of nesting pairs.

Some of our nature reserves offer great opportunities to see herons at their heronries. Marazion Marsh, Cornwall has a population of breeding herons that unusually nest in reedbeds rather than trees, Northward Hill, Kent has nearly 150 pairs of herons nesting in woodland and we have run a Heronwatch at the Ellesmere visitor centre in Shropshire.

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