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Fri 29th October 2010

Posted on November 13, 2010 at 3:05 PM

Scilly Trip 2010 - day seven

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And so I packed my case in the room, ready to head across to the pub for breakfast. It was a pig awful day and so it was still dark out, so there was no rush. I hadn't heard news of the Green Heron yesterday and I still could get no internet access on my phone, so I gave Birdline SW a quick ring to see if it was still there.

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And "Blimey O'Reilly!" - the first message was of an American Bittern, barely 8 miles away from where I was standing!! The last twitchable American Bittern in Britain was in 1991, twenty winters ago. I remembered this well because I saw it! I was still at University and was offered a lift up to Blackpool with one of the local Bristol birders mid-week, which meant skiving off lectures for the day. It was freezing cold but we saw it well in the reeds.

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So, very exciting indeed, I wolfed down my breakfast and headed off North - quite relaxed though, as unlike most of the other twitchers making their way there, it was already on my list. Parking in the village of Zennor, following the instructions on the message, I set off up the hill towards the higher tops of Trewey Common. The wind was right in my face, and there was wetness in it, making the walk up the slope very difficult - especially for the couple of old geezers I overtook on the way. And very annoyingly, I could see ahead that other twitchers had just parked on the roadside, avoiding the walk.

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I carried on struggling up the hill and when I got to the top I could just make out a line of birders further along the road. I was just making my way towards them when a large flappy bird caught my eye to my right. I looked through the bins and watched the American Bittern fly past me. I watched it for a good ten seconds or so until it dropped behind an escarpment. A few minutes later and I would have missed it - it was apparently flushed by an over-zealous twitcher but I dunno about that. The old guys I overtook missed it. Not the greatest of views but I was pleased I saw it quite well in flight, albeit against the sky. It appeared more heron-like than a Common Bittern in structure. I decided that staying for another view seemed futile and so I went back to the car, which turned out to be a good choice as it was only seen twice again briefly in flight all day.

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There was no chance of photos, but with the modern technology of Google Streetview and a bit of Photoshop, I constructed a reconstruction of what I saw (well maybe it wasn't that close!)

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The weather was still poor and I had driven away from most of the cornish valleys, so I thought I'd make my way up to the Lost Gardens again (it was seen yesterday). On the way I passed the Hayle Estuary, so I gave it twenty minutes or so there, but there was nothing too exciting to report. A Ruff, a Med Gull, and lots of Wigeon and gulls.

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The Hayle Estuary, Cornwall

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Med Gull, Hayle

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feeding Wigeon, Hayle

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So next I made my way back to St. Austell and back to the Lost Gardens of Heligan. I had no news from this morning, but I was pretty confident that it would still be there - but would I be able to find it? The lady at the paying kiosk told me that it had just been seen by one of the staff members at the top Jungle Pond, and so I sauntered down the hill to get a nice easy tick.

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......or so I thought. Straight to the Top Jungle Pond - no sign. Gave it a wee while in case it was just hidden, but no. Tried the other 4 jungle ponds - no. Went down into the Lost Valley and checked those ponds - no. Back up to Jungle Ponds - NO! I was getting major deja-vu - it couldn't happen again could it? I sat on a bench for a rest - I thought "I don't care if they shut at 5 - I am not moving 'til I see it!" - yes, I was getting a bit stressy. There were other birders arriving regularly - presumably on the way to or back from the Bittern - so at least this time there were more eyes.

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Calming down, I wandered back towards the Jungle and on the boardwalk by the second pond, there was a gathering of birders, I rushed over and looked ahead and . . . . .

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Green Heron, Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall

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So my tick for the trip - it only took me about 5 hours of searching and £20 of entry fees. If you include Guernsey, this is bird number 385 for Britain (374 without Channel Islands sightings). It is also number 526 for the Western Pal. And it was really a nice bird, but very slow moving and it easily disappeared from view.

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So with the heavy weight lifted from my shoulders, I sped back towards Exeter where I had a room booked at the Holiday Inn. As I approached the city, I realised that there was probably a good hour of light left, so I detoured towards Exminster Marshes. I soon found out that my road atlas was poor and the signage useless and got lost down the Devon lanes, and eventually got to the marshes as it was starting to get dusky. I parked up and checked a few ditches and pools and quickly found that the Glossy Ibis was, rather conveniently, feeding away on the closest pool to the car park. I am surprised I managed any shots in the gloom but here they are.

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Glossy Ibis, Exminster Marshes

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So, a superb end to the day. Only my second sighting of Glossy Ibis in Britain - the last was way, way back in May 1989 at Fairburn Ings. The hotel room was luxurious compared to the others and they give you two choices of pillows, soft or firm. I went to see another film, but this time at the multiplex type place - it was "RED" which was very enjoyable indeed, although I don't think any Oscars are in the offing. I hadn't eaten any tea at all, so I bought some snacks, which I am loathe to do at these places as they totally fleece you. So I ordered a medium coke and popcorn,and the guy says I could "Go Large!"  for an extra 30p - so why not. And he hands me a cup of coke which must have been about a litre, and a tub of popcorn I could've sailed to sea in! I couldn't even physically hold them whilst I got my ticket from my pocket. No wonder there is an obesity problem when just 30p can turn you from a normal hungry person into some disgusting, gluttonous pig!

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Categories: 2010 Autumn