Hythe - 0750hrs - mild, cloudy, wind and rain increasing, sw 5 - Had to go to Hythe this morning so called in to have a look at the putative Chinese Pond Heron on the way. When I arrived there was around 20 birders/twitchers already on site including a good few local faces, but also an advanced guard of the national twitching army, with the Field Marshal in the vanguard holding court. During the hour I was on site views of the heron were crap as it was mainly perched in a tree, at distance and partially obscured by buildings and branches, making my tuppence worth as to its identity worthless. Not that it would`ve mattered anyway if it had been sat out in the open, as my knowledge of Ardeola pond herons is limited to specimens seen in captivity, such as at the Snowdon aviary and Pensthorpe Park, you know, the kind of place you take the kiddies when they`re young to impress `em with your birding knowledge...
Anyhow, after chewing the fat with some of the Marsh regulars, and being familiar with the lay-of-the-land, I had a feeling how things were going to pan out here - you know the sort of thing, the bird plays hide and seek in back gardens as it goes about the business of fishing for Coy Carp, and the twitching SAS just have get closer, even if it means `scoping between houses and into living rooms and blocking the public footpath with tripods so the school kids and dog-walkers have to walk in the road. Was good to see the Field Marshal setting a fine example on how to twitch - `scope up on the edge of someone`s driveway, beside a busy main road, shouting back towards his shock troops the finer points of pond heron id over the din of the school run traffic.
Back in the safety of the housing estate I got chatting to a couple of local residents, one of whom said he`d been feeding the heron meal worms in his garden for the past month, "is that normal" he asked, "yep", said I, "zoos use `em all the time to feed a wide range of birds, I once had an injured Red-necked Grebe swimming around in my bathtub for a week one winter, it loved meal worms, although didn`t think much when I released it back on Tring Reservoirs and it had to go back to fish!"
The other fella said, "I`m surprised at the amount of attention its caused, there`s been a lot of people here all week". To which I replied, "if you think this is busy, wait until the weekend...".
However, just a final thought, what is it with Hythe and herons: Green Heron, Night Heron, pond heron..., surely there`s not a heron aviary nearby?
Lade - The rest of the day was a wash out with heavy rain and gales force winds lashing the peninsula and even Barney wasn`t keen to brave the elements.