Sunday, 7 November 2010

American Bittern twitch with Green Heron bonus

I left York on Friday night at around 2330hrs with Tony, then picked Dave and Steve up from Wetherby for the long drive to Cornwall for the joint targets of American Bittern and Green Heron. The journey was fairly enjoyable for an overnight job with little traffic. We arrived at Walmsley Sanctuary around 5am to be greeted by plenty of cars already parked up on the verge. We got ready and headed down to the field to be led across to Tower Hide. Whilst waiting, the sound of a couple of Tawny Owl rang out, a bit later a Spotted Redshank flew over calling in the dark.

Around 0630ish we headed over to the hide, several other waders could be heard calling as approached, Greenshank, Curlew and Black-tailed Godwit amongst them. On arrival at the hide it was clear that several people had already ventured over to the hide and were insitu. We took up our positions in a queue for the hide. I was half way up the steps. After about 30 minutes noise in the hide suggested the bird was on show, news filtered out that it was on show but not from where I was stood... at least it was still there I thought...a single Whooper Swan was a nice distraction.

An anxious 10 minutes passed. Luckily those inside the hide had achieved good views of the bird and started to filter out, in I got, right at the back at the far end. I was going to have to wait a bit longer. Some very poor directions was a little frustrating but eventually I got some movement in my bins, that was it I knew. Got it, American Bittern. I managed to get on it with my scope as it walked out into the open before quickly running off to the left and out of my very small window of view. At this point a small bit of argy-bargy was heard from outside the hide. FIGHT!!! This record pertains to about the 60th UK/Irish record of this species (most of these a long-long time ago) but the first alive/twitchable one since 1991. One was actually present on the same site in 1999 but was suppressed!

Those at the front of the hide moved out again, well some of them did... I managed to get a little closer to the front end of the hide, but still right at the back and was unable to actually see out of a window. For me this was the most frustrating bit of the day, several guys sat in the prime positions at the front left of the hide, one checking his phone/chatting to his mate, the other looking with his naked eyes. Luckily Steve picked it up from the middle of the hide looking through 6 people in front of him. They were so surprised/excited they jumped up, knocking Steves scope. Luckily he managed to relocate it, Dave, Tony and I all managed a decent look of the bird, back on then it turned its head just as I looked through - excellent view. I don't think the guys at the front of the hide could find it! When eventually they did see it, and see it well they still didn't move out of view. It was clear they weren't going to budge so we made a move,

Satisfied with our brief but good views, and aware that there was a crowd of people all wanting to get in the hide we left for the (relatively) short drive for the Green Heron down at Heligan.

On arrival at the gardens we went for a walk through 'the jungle', checking on all the pools and waterside vegetation. Eventually we came across a group of people stood along a bridge, we joined them and in no time at all were having the most spectacular of views of this little heron as it fed around the pond fringe catching little fishes. A very photogenic bird. I managed to get a couple of images on my mobile phone - see below. This was my second sighting of this species in the UK and about the 10th UK record.

Totally exhausted, but still up for a bit more, we headed back for seconds of the American Bittern. The reserve was a little quieter so we managed to get into the hide, and get a decent location, after 20 minutes I found the bird hidden amongst some sedge-type vegetation. Eventually it came out in the open and showed well, albeit gradually walking away from us. I managed to get a single 'record shot' (the one up top) on my phone before I gave my place up to those behind me. On leaving the hide I bumped into a chap called Dave Land who very kindly has let me put a couple of his pictures up here (below). Thank you Dave. Please note the the two American Bittern images below are © 2010 Dave Land.

I'd like to extend my thanks to the people of the Cornwall Birdwatching and Preservation Society for actually releasing the news this time and managing the car-parking/tower hide yesterday. And thanks to Dave, Steve and Tony for making the trip possible.

Some more of the Green Heron....

Glad we went yesterday as the bird was not seen at all on Sunday!

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