Herons and rubbish

I guess that all rare birds are worth seeing, but – as with commoner species – some are perhaps a little drab, whilst others you would like to watch for hours if you had the chance. Today we saw a species that undoubtedly falls into the latter category!

Having finished our course in Leeds mid-afternoon there was plenty of daylight in which to go somewhere for a walk, so we decided to head for the Dearne Valley, where there are several interesting sites including the RSPB’s Old Moor reserve. However looking at my Rare Bird Alert app I saw that two night herons had been hanging out recently near Ossett, which is only about 25 minutes from where we were in Leeds, so it made no sense not to go there on our way (I like a good double negative now and then!). This turned out to be a great decision, and not just for seeing night herons.

Having found the suggested parking spot on the edge of Ossett, we headed toward where we thought the herons were, but actually went the wrong way on the path! It’s a lovely bit of habitat between the River Calder and the Calder & Hebble Navigation, slightly marred by the railway line running through the middle, but more particularly by the large amount of rubbish that has accumulated on the river banks and round about. A real shame in such a rich post industrial habitat.

Our wrong turn lead Brenda to find some new flowers (more below) and we also saw out first grey wagtail of the year. Turning back to follow the bank of the river in the right direction we also saw our first black cap of the year, a male perched on the top of a tree and singing away loudly. We met a couple who said that the wooded area between the canal and the river was now home to a small colony of rose-ringed parakeets, but we didn’t see any today. They are now very common (possibly a bit of a pest!) in parts of London, but I hadn’t realised that they had reached into Yorkshire.

And then we found night heron – or to be precise black-crowned night heron. I have seen a couple of adults abroad, most notably in Spain, and a juvenile many years ago in Portugal, but it’s hard to describe how amazing it is to see an adult night heron on the bank of a river in Yorkshire, in full daylight (they’re mostly nocturnal and roost in trees during the day). Plus another adult roosting in a nearby tree!

A beautiful adult night heron, sadly surrounded by the detritus of humans. Note the amazing plume!

So I make no excuse for publishing several photos!

And as if two night herons weren’t enough we were pleasantly distracted, whilst there, by a group of mallard chicks skittering along on the river with their mother, and also a kingfisher that came and perched on the bank right by where the herons were.

Having spent quite a while there we decided to head off toward our original destination, but discovered that RSPB Old Moor closes at 5pm. So we headed for some of the other reserves in the Dearne Valley, and eventually – having found that several had no obvious public access – we ended up having a pleasant walk at Wombwell Ings (Ing is a Yorkshire name for a water meadow): No new species but an interesting habitat and a nice way to end our day before heading home down the A1…

Brenda writes: “As we set off in search of the night herons we were walking through a very rich habitat with spring flowers, many of which I have seen already, really getting into their stride. But there were two new species today. The first, wood anemone, was growing by the path but would more normally be seen in woodland among the bluebells and lesser celandine.

wood anemone

Then on the river bank cuckoo flower with its delicate pink petals.

cuckoo flower

The garlic mustard I saw the other day was seen from the car so here’s a photo taken today for the record.”

garlic mustard

New species for April 16th:
Birds: blackcap, grey wagtail, night heron
Flowers: wood anemone, cuckoo flower