A What?!

Tim enjoys photographing a rarity

The chap next to me hunted through his pockets to find the source of the bleeping sound; his pager. I wondered where he would be rushing off to, in pursuit of the next 'twitch'. He stayed put, so I guess he'd seen one of those before (whatever it was). I was at Martin's Pond in Wollaton on 30th June this year, watching a squacco heron. This white and buff coloured heron was far from home. Its European, Summer residences are southern Spain, the Balkans and a two small areas in France.

Two days before I hadn't even heard of such a bird. Dave Goodwin was kind enough to ring me and let me know that this rarity had been on the Pond when he and Jan visited it on the 29th. It was a real rarity, only reported twice before in Nottinghamshire, both of those sitings many years ago.

Squacco HeronAlmost as soon as I passed through the gate, I caught a glimpse of a grey back in amongst the reeds - a grey heron - only about 20 metres from me. I paused to take a better look when a voice behind me said 'Not there; further along to your right.' I thanked him but continued to look at the grey heron, not often seen so close. I then walked on and Dave was correct, I couldn't miss the right place, there were about a dozen people all clutching binoculars or peering through telescopes. One or two had cameras with very long telephoto lenses. I had taken my camera and telephoto, but felt quite inadequate alongside those monsters! 

The buff smudge, which I had spotted as I walked up, moved into the reeds just as I focused on it with my binoculars. I waited patiently for a while, enjoying watching tufted duck, moorhen and mallard in the meantime, until the squacco heron reappeared from amongst the reeds. I took some photographs, watched it some more and was in the middle of taking some more pictures when it took off. I continued to photograph it in flight, knowing that the pictures would be blurred, but also knowing that I would never have another chance. Shortly afterwards it disappeared deep into the reedbeds.

Tufted DuckAs I walked back to the gate, I took photographs of tufted duck and grey heron. 'Too far away mate', said a new arrival, 'a waste of film.'. 'Not for me.' I replied. I enjoyed trying to get a picture, just as I enjoyed watching all the birds on that pond. If the film had been wasted, the moment when I took it wasn't because it was a pleasure to try. You can judge for yourself if I wasted the film

Near the gate I received another warning, but this time it was a Canada goose protecting her goslings. I gave her plenty of room, and the respect she deserved.

As I returned to my car, covering up my binoculars, another hopeful watcher approached and asked if it was still there. I hope he saw it too, not just to add another tick to his list, but because there is pleasure in watching the natural world. That goes for the rarity and the commonplace; squacco or grey.