Thursday, 11 November 2010

Heligan's Heron

It was always on the cards and finally on Tuesday night i began the journey down to Cornwall to see the rare American Green Heron that over a month ago was blown off course and landed at The Lost Gardens of Heligan, a tourist attraction/natural site of beauty. Martin accompanied me which was exactly what i needed as doing the journey solo wasn't something i was keen to do. We travelled via Bristol and by doing so broke up the journey, we drove for 2 hours 15 minutes before bedding down for the night on Tuesday, the room was baking hot and with a stomach full of Lucozade and KFC sleeping wasn't easy! We left at 7am Wednesday morning and drove the other 2 hours 30 minutes also stopping at Little Chef for some more quality food and arrived at Heligan for bang on 10am.

The next 3 hours can only be described as a mixture of exciting anticipation followed by a slow build up of depression! (suddenly i felt like a genuine 'twitcher'). We made our way down to the 'Lost Valley' where the bird had been seen for the past 4 days offering unbelievable close views, we parked ourselves in the weird hide/converted hut called the Shepherd's Hut. We waited along with 6/7 other people and nothing was seen. Not despondant (yet) we walked around the boardwalk area to the 4 jungle pools where it's previously been seen in the hope that it had simply relocated but unfortunately we couldn't find it. Martin will testify that by now i was beginning to feel like our luck had ran out, people were mentioning the previous nights clear skies and the idea it may have buggered off...but Martin couldn't take that and was sure it was around, a fellow Scouse birder named Ian was also completely optimistic and after some more waiting in the hide all 3 of us decided to head back up to the Jungle for another look, by now it was gone 1pm and we were hungry, thirsty and i was badly needing a piss! 3 pools were checked and we made our way to the final 'Top Pond', we walked along the boardwalk and suddenly Martin stopped and gave one of those "i've got something i think" looks....he stared intently and then Ian came out with the words we all wanted to hear...."lads i've got it!"....

....massive sighs of relief, pats on the backs and handshakes ensued followed by some choice swear words and extreme clicking of cameras despite the Heron being in almost complete darkness and far away! What followed was about 2 hours of pure American Green Heron watching as the bird stalked around the pond edges catching over 10 fish, at times it stopped for long periods of time without moving and at 1 point it came within 6ft of us. The Top Pond is a great location to see this bird as it has a tropical feel to it that makes you feel like you are watching the bird in a swampy pool back in the USA. However this makes for quite a dark and shady place to photograph him, the sun was in and out but never did it shine on the pond directly so alot of the time we had to make do with high ISO's thus picture quality was affected. Either way it was amazing to see such a bird, for some that we met during the day it was simply ticking a real rarity and definitely it was the 'rarest' bird i have seen in the UK, saying that for myself and Martin it was the characteristics, the mannerisms, the look and the behaviour of this bird that was the biggest joy. It's shape and style was a real treat to watch and being so confiding but at the same time so tricky to spot was all part of the adventure. We left at 3.30pm and by 9pm i was back at home very very tired but totally satisfied.....i do sort've fancy going again though! Haha! Enjoy my photos....


  1. Great Heron pics Ben, we were lucky enough to have one of these 2 years ago on the west hythe military canal in Kent, which stayed about for a while.

  2. Great photography Ben! Fantastic heron shots