Highways and Byways in Sussex - online book

An illustrated appreciation, of the most interesting districts in Sussex.

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88                                THE PARHAM HERONS                          chap.
gallery, access to it being gained through a window seat. There was hidden Charles Paget after the Babington conspiracy. Parham Park has deer and a lake and an enchanted forest of sombre trees. On the highest ground in this forest is the clump of firs in which the famous herons build. The most interesting time to visit the heronry is in the breeding season, for then one sees the lank birds continually homing from the Amberley Wild Brooks with fishes in their bills and long legs stream­ing behind. The noise is tremendous, beyond all rookeries. Mr. Knox's Ornithological Rambles, from which I have already quoted freely, has this passage: "The herons at Parham assemble early in February, and then set about repairing their nests, but the trees are never entirely deserted during the winter months; a few birds, probably some of the more back­ward of the preceding season, roosting among their boughs every night. They commence laying early in March, and the greater part of the young birds are hatched during the early days of April. About the end of May they may be seen to flap out of their nests to the adjacent boughs, and bask for hours in the warm sunshine; but although now comparatively quiet during the day, they become clamorous for food as the evening approaches, and indeed for a long time appear to be more difficult to wean, and less able to shift for themselves, than most birds of a similar age. They may be observed, as late as August, still on the trees, screaming for food, and occasionally fed by their parents, who forage for them assiduously; indeed, these exertions, so far from being relaxed after the setting of the sun, appear to be redoubled during the night; for I have frequently disturbed herons when riding by moonlight among the low grounds near the river, where I have seldom seen them during the day, and several cottagers in the neighbourhood of Parham have assured me that their shrill cry may be heard at all hours of the night, during the summer season., as they fly to and fro overhead, on their passage between the heronry and the open country.
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