A few days previously a Little Bittern had been discovered skulking in the reeds and other vegetation along the edge of the River Colne near Stockers Lake/Bury Lake (in south-west Hertfordshire, and just off the M25). There had been no sign for a couple of days, but considering how secretive this species can be at times it was not especially surprising when it was found again this morning.
Dave and I travelled the short distance round the M25 to have a look, and it wasn't long before we were watching the first Little Bittern that either of us had seen in the UK - they aren't particularly rare as a vagrant, but neither of us had previously tried for any other individuals.
This one was a female (although it had previously been reported as a first year male).
It was completely unfazed by the 50 or so birdwatchers who were lined up on the river bank, and was happily stalking about in the reeds on the other side of the river, and repeatedly pulling small fish out of the water. The only thing that seemed to disturb it was when other birds, such as a Moorhen, actually entered the reeds close to where it was.
Skulking at the edge of the reeds.
It did come right out eventually though!
An idea of the size of the Little Bittern can be got from this (rather poor) photo
- they really are 'little'!
There was quite a lot of other wildlife to be seen in the area where the Little Bittern was present, including a Hobby which passed overhead, and variety of dragonflies and damselflies. Some of the odonata (dragons & damsels) were also noticed by the Little Bittern, which plucked a couple of damselflies from the reeds while we watched, and also 'lunged', unsucessfully, at a Hairy Dragonfly which passed close over its head. Surprisingly there didn't appear to be any Banded Demoiselles on what looked like a suitable river, but Azure Damselflies, Blue-tailed Damselflies, and Large Red Damselflies were seen.
Other birds that were in the area included singing Garden Warblers, a family of Blackcaps, and Common Terns - with some of the latter perching on tree branches over-hanging the gravel pits.