Having had a calamity on Saturday and with no sign of the Hudwit re-appearing I was left at something of a loss with my birding. The heron on Scilly was tempting but it decided to set off on another island hop again, and as a result I considered not worth the risk.
However, another heron, not a mega but certainly a stunning bird had turned up near Nottingham on Sunday, though I was busy then. When it was re-found today I decided to head off after lectures to try and get a look, since it was not going to cost the earth (Less than a trip to Swilly) and would mean checking out another site and hopefully seeing some smashing species.
The train was right next to the reserve, so I was on the site within 90 mins of setting. As is usual for a twitch, I powered on to where the heron would be. However, I was distracted as soon as I entered the reserve by a couple of ducks on the water as I marched past. I checked myself and went through the bushes for a closer look. They were indeed what I thought they were, Red Crested Pochard males. As is customary with this species, its difficult to know if the individuals you are looking at are tickable or not. However, there was not an excess of toilet ducks, as you would maybe expect. They never showed their legs for rings, but they were very tame. However, they seem pretty legit so I have them down on my yearlist as my 149th species of the year. I also saw them again on the way back when I was able to get some shots of them preening. It was an ideal start to the afternoon.
-Red Crested Pochards
Through the woods there were ample Blackcaps singing as well as a host of other, commoner species. Walking along the path directly to where the heron was I heard a bizarre call, almost like a squawking response to a predator. I was shocked when I found a male blackcap with its feathers all splayed out, it all became clear when a female appeared from the foliage a few seconds later. Its the first time I have seen blackcaps displaying and it was certainly something to behold. I was directly below them, and could have stayed to get some photos, but did not want to disturb them so took a couple of quick shots and left them to it.
And just round the corner from them was the bird of the moment. The heron in question? Black Crowned Night. I remember seeing them in zoos and being surprised by how small they were. Now, in the field I was surprised by how big it was compared to how I remembered it.
It was badly obscured by the leaves but it was not inactive and moved its head enough so you could see all its features. Its eye was captivating through the scope, so deep and orange. The small crest behind its head was also a pretty funky feature, especially as it was being constantly buffered by the wind. Despite the cover I did get to see the complete bird, just not all at the same time. It was not close but not distant, sat on an island in the middle of the lakes. I got some good shots of it through the scope, showing all the features and what a superb bird it is.
-Black-Crowned Night Heron
After 15 mins of watching and enjoying the bird it suddenly took off and flew round out of sight. I was a bit gutted it had gone, but more that I had not got any photos of it in flight. Either way, it had gone, possibly due to there being more cloud cover making it think it was closer to evening than it was? I dunno.
I mentioned to a couple of guys there that I needed gropper and they gave me some directions to where they knew of some. It was no problem, as around 400 meters further down the path I heard one reeling away. Possibility of my second lifer and biggest bogey bird. I could see a few guys further down the path looking for it but I could tell they were as frustrated as me by the fact it was remaining very skulky.
Then I noticed a heron flying towards me. I dunno why I did not call it immediately as it was clearly too small to be a Grey or a Bittern but needed to check through the bins first and as a result wasted time checking that I could have been using to take photos. It was, of course, the bird of the hour, the Night Heron. I called the guys down the path, as it was going over their heads, before it flew over the trees. We raced round but it had gone over the next line as well, as the hide we needed had been conveniently locked just when it was most required. I did get one shot away, and its not bad.
-Black-Crowned Night Heron
We then returned to the gropper as it started reeling again. We saw its movement but nothing of it, and my quite clearly exceptional record with this species continues...
With the afternoon drawing on there had been an outburst of flying insects. I am not talking about a few midges or anything, these were swarms of bugs all down the paths. It was a little unpleasant so headed to an area of open space nearer the visitor center. On the way I checked the lakes and picked out a couple of Little Ringed Plover and plenty of Common Terns.
At the visitor center there was little resbite from the flies that had got much worse as I had moved. Despite the heron, I think here was where my favourite part of the afternoon occured. There had been Cetti's Warblers singing all day at the reserve but as per I could not get close. However, just off from the center, one was singing adjacent to the path, and I decided to try and track it down. It did not take long, as I soon picked up the bird skulking through the brambles. It was the clearest view of this species I have ever had.
And then, it decided to stop skulking and start to go up a tree feeding all the way. I could not believe it and was trying desperatly to get shots of this bird that was showing itself so well. Then, out in the open off on a branch, I got to see it sing. Its the first time I have ever been able to see the species clearly and singing. The way it chest bubbles as the song explodes out was probably the best thing I saw all day. I did manage some shots, though not of the song, but clearly of the bird, a real beauty.
The bird then dropped again. I had decided, before the bird started showing properly, that the flies had reach an unbearable point and that I would go for the next train, which was not long until. As a result I decided to leave the cetti's and head off to the station.
So thats how the afternoon concluded, as fantastically as it had started, putting my on 151 for the year and 250 life list with the addition of Night Heron. A superb bird, with a fantastic supporting cast and a great day out. Pretty sweet all in all.
Attenborough NR: Mallard, Canada Goose, Graylag Goose, Gadwall, Pochard, Red Crested Pochard, Tufted Duck, Mute Swan, Grey Heron, Black-Crowned Night Heron, Oystercatcher, Little Ringed Plover, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Dunnock, Black-Headed Gull, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Blackcap, Cetti's Warbler, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Common Tern, Coot, Moorhen, Blue Tit, Woodpigeon, Feral Pigeon, Great Crested Grebe, Lapwing, Cormorant, Reed Bunting,