“Under the Boardwalk” 25th June 2017 Shrewsbury. Hoacti Night heron.

We had been wondering whether to go for the Night Heron that had taken to the Quarry Park area in Shrewsbury for a while, when after seeing photo’s and reading discussion it was found the bird was most likely to be the American race hoacti. We then decided, as this was a form tick in the UK, to make a visit. However this took longer than anticipated to actually do. We planned it on several occasions but things kept cropping up, lucily the bird settled and stayed so on this Sunday we found we were free and finally got to go to the heron, then planned to go a bit further over for Large Heath at Whixall Moss. The weather however had other ideas and the Sunday dawned rather dull and cool. We decided to head for Shrewsbury and see how it went. The trip over was interspersed with heavy rain showers so the butterflies were now looking a distant long shot. Arriving in Shrewsbury we found some parking just over the River Severn from the Quarry Park and walked down to cross the bridge. From here we saw the park was full of tents, cars and people, all accompanied by the less than inviting smell and smoke of cooking burgers. This we later discovered was a food festival… and to our dismay we had come without cash in our pockets. It also seemed less than conducive to birdwatching.

We walked round to a small side gate to the park and found to our delight that we could walk almost straight into The Dingle which is effectively a small park within a park and where the heron had made its temporary home. We found the park was partly a formal garden in the tradition of park bedding planting and partly a wilder water garden round a central lake with thick cover and tree planting, hence the herons presence. It was surprisingly quiet in there and there were very few people around considering the bustle and noise in the rest of the park.

“The Dingle” in Quarry Park.

We walked down the side of the small lake checking the central island with no luck and made our way towards a small board walk that crossed the bottom end of the water. We could see a few people standing around on there from a distance. On turning onto the boardwalk we found the people where filming with their phones and, on looking just to the right, there was the heron, sitting on some low vegetation, completely unconcerned by the attention the people were showing it. Most of the just over eight or so folk were not birders just casual visitors enjoying the park and making the most of the chance to see something a little unusual.

Note the quite high white forehead patch and thin very narrow line over the eye.

Look at that red eye!

I really rather like this shot it’s such a funny pose.

The bird was preening and roosting. We soon found out what it was waiting for, people feeding the ducks! As soon as someone threw bread to them the heron perked up and then flew across the pond to a low hanging conifer near to where the bread was being chucked in. The reason became clear, it was watching the fish that were drawn to the bread, clearly it had learned to use the bread throwing antics of the visitors to draw in its dinner too. It showed really well on this conifer for a while and it was quite surreal watching it at such close range whilst accompanied in the background by live music drifting over from the food festival.

I had never noticed the webbing between the outer toes before on a Night Heron.

The tree was just just too high for it to fish from though so it then flew right towards us and landed directly under the board walk on a little just submerged shelf. Here we could not see it as it was right below us about 12 inches away but through the narrow cracks in the boards you could just make bits of it out as it fished.

The bird looks a pretty much standard Night Heron but the face pattern is a little different in that it seems to have more white on the forehead than the European form and much less white extending over the eye. The European form has a well defined white supercilium over the eye whereas this bird has a very thin, almost broken line, this combines with the forehead to give a subtly different facial expression.

Whilst this was going on the sky was darkening and a thin drizzle had begun to fall. We decided to call it a day as the bird seemed settled out of view, so we continued to walk around the lake and out of the gardens. Looking back we could see the bird under the board walk, fishing happily while folk walked across completely unaware of it’s presence.

Walking round a bit further we saw a large metal heron sculpture on the opposite bank.

Rather appropriately perhaps when we got level with it we looked back and could still see the Night Heron happy under its boardwalk sheltering from the rain and fishing away!

“eye” can see you…

On reaching the car we had a quick snack and decided whether to risk the Butterflies, thankfully the weather saved us a drive and it absolutely hammered it down. We called it a day and drove back to Derbyshire.

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