Green Heron – Messingham Sand Quarry NR, Lincolnshire

Missing the Green Heron had been an unpleasant experience and over the course of the next week I began to get more and more anxious and stressed, each morning the bird would be seen and with my weekend fully booked I had to try and come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t going to see this bird. I was actually relieved when the bird didn’t show on Thursday morning. The next day, however, it was refound and I immediately decided that I had to try and get there.

I arranged the day off on Monday and assuming that the bird was still there on Sunday then I would go with my Dad. The bird went to roost near the Duck Hide on Sunday night and so I arranged to pick Dad up at 3am. Knowing where it had gone to roost I was anxious to get there for around 6am. This would mean that we could hopefully watch the heron appearing from its roost site in the early morning. It didn’t quite happen like that!

We made good time and arrived at around 6:15am. Rather surprisingly we were the only people in the car park, it was still fairly dark but knowing that it was quite a long walk we set off from the car almost immediately. We got to the duck hide and realised that it wasn’t at all obvious where the heron had gone to roost, as the day began to brighten we knew that we had probably missed our best chance of seeing the bird.

Other people began to arrive but none of them had any idea where to look. The area was split into 3 main sections. Firstly the area of cut reeds where the bird had first been found and where Peter and I had stood last Monday night, over the course of the first few days it had gradually moved from this area.

The second area was the main lake, perhaps 300 yards across and with a very long perimeter of small tress with overhanging vegetation, perfect for hiding a small heron for long periods. The third area was two much smaller ponds, also with overhanging fringes, this looked the best area. With such small numbers of birders (it was a Monday) we realised that our best chance might be a flight view. It would be a five hour journey home and so we were anxious to see the bird as soon as possible. Over the next 90 minutes we moved around between all of the various areas and our task began to feel more and more impossible.

At about 8am I got talking to a recently arrived birder. He said he had seen the bird the evening before and showed us the small bush it had flown into, it was just across the other side of one of the two smaller ponds. From his timings it was clear that this must have been the place the heron went to roost, and not the Duck Hide. If only he had put this news out on the pager we would have known where to look from first light and with the bush being very small I felt sure that we would have seen the heron emerging from it. It was now 2 hours after first light and surely the heron would have left its roost site and without anyone watching.

After almost an hour of watching this bush through telescopes (just in case it was still in there) Dad said he was going to wander off. He went missing for about 20 minutes and suddenly I noticed a figure on the far side of the pond heading directly towards the bush! The figure, which I was now sure was Dad, disappeared behind the bush and within a few seconds one of the birders cried out, there it is flying!

I didn’t see it but thankfully it flew again and I had reasonable but brief flight views.We all jogged around the corner and tried to relocate the bird. I also tried to ring Dad to let him know but couldn’t get through. Dad eventually joined me and confessed that he had flushed the heron and had got very close, so close in fact that both him and the heron were startled to see each other! About 30 minutes later the Heron was rediscovered, this time perched right out in the open and in direct sunlight.

We watched it for 15 minutes, what a fantastic relief and what excellent views. The journey back was made in very high spirits, having missed the bird so agonisingly 7 days earlier this was perhaps the most relieved I have ever felt on a twitch.

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