PAGE THREE

I was in the first floor bedroom, which gives a good view of the garden, and there he was: The Heron, who would not be out of place in a Jurassic Park film, standing in the shallows of the pond with his head thrown back as he swallowed one of my goldfish. I couldn't believe it! I ran down the stairs, through the garden room, and came out charging at the pond. In that time he had snatched up another fish, another appetizer in his five course meal.

Standing two metres away, he ignored my frantic jumping up and down and continued with his feast. The water in the pond was getting cloudy as the fish panicked and tried to get away. It was then I saw the most amazing sight I have ever seen: Jaws, Goldie (almost as big as Jaws) and Long Tall Sally alongside a few other big fish ducking and diving, throwing up more clouds of dirt, zigzagging not away from the heron but towards him. Jaws was leading the charge, with his head held high.

Standing entranced, barely believing my own eyes, I saw a real battle was going down. Jaws and co were now attacking the heron, and the Heron was retaliating by stabbing at the water with his big long beak while flapping his massive wings. Yoshi, locked away from the action in the kitchen, started barking, waking me from my trance. I ran back to the gravel path, scooping up the stones in both hands, before throwing it at the Heron. With that, and the fish below attacking him, the Heron had enough: Flapping his wings once again, he took off to the safety of the trees.

I had a good look around the pond to count how many casualties we had. I couldn't see a thing. I had around forty fish or more, and I had witnessed two fall victim to the Heron's beak. Likely there more, but I couldn't see them.

I never bothered netting the pond apart from the late winter months, as the pond is close to the house. So for the next couple of hours I spent netting the pond over. By this time the water was starting to clear and the fish were settling down again. Little did I know, as far as the heron was concerned, this was just beginning.

The following morning I took my tea out to the pond at around 8.30am to find the Heron in the exact same position as yesterday. Glancing at me with his beady, black eyes, he took off but very slowly as if he had some trouble getting airborne. He looked much fuller this time I thought, as if he had enjoyed breakfast, lunch and dinner all at the same time.

What I saw next was awful: Poor Goldie lay on his side, not yet dead but badly wounded. The corpse of another large Koi lay beside him, and I couldn't see Jaws at all. A quick headcount of the ponds inhabitants told me that around ten fish were missing. I was furious. All I wanted at the moment was to kill the Heron! I didn't care if they were a protected species, or anything about the beauty of nature and food chains, the only thought I had was how to catch it and dispose of it. One way of doing this was setting up a hide by the thorn bush, and as it flew overhead I would pop up and give it both barrels of a shotgun. I'm not sure what the neighbours would think of this. Perhaps that wasn't such a good idea.

When I was cleaning the pond and removing the dead fish, I suddenly remembered talking to a friend who knew a company that could specially design metal bars to cover the entire surface of the pond. I wasn't sure I would have liked the pond looking like a prison cell, and it would take a couple of weeks to make, which by that time there would be no more fish left in the pond.

Another night passed, this time with HG sleeping on the couch in the garden room. Her indoors thinks I have lost the plot completely. On sentry duty early the next morning I caught up with the heron again, managing to drove him away. To my delight as I inspected the pond Jaws resurfaced, unharmed. That same day somebody mentioned the idea of planting a decoy. A heron decoy, resembling the real thing. Apparently they hunt alone. A few hours shopping and I returned to the pond with my new guardian in hand. Lo and behold, the following morning the Heron came down,
Took one look at the decoy, and flew away again. Since I've had the decoy, the Heron has reappeared a few times, but never before quickly flying away again.

You heard it here first folks, from Happy G: If you have a problem with HERONS, get a DECOY.