Sunday, 8 April 2012

'Night Shift' Heron

I've worked nights myself way back so I know that sleeping during the day can be tricky, especially if you're in a noisy neighbourhood. Setting yourself up in the middle of a town right next to a busy hotel would not seem like a good idea if you want a peaceful days kip. Not unless of course you're a Black-crowned Night Heron, in that case it's straightforward.
Having missed the Bunmahon Purple Heron last weekend I was a little bit wary of making another journey, this time for the Skibbereen Black-crowned Night Heron. However news from irishbirding on Sunday morning that it was roosting in the trees as usual at the back of the West Cork Hotel was enough for me. Polina and I set forth before lunchtime bound for Skib!
My heart sank a little though on arrival as I scanned the trees behind the hotel, according to all the reports I'd read this was its favoured spot but for the moment I couldn't see it anywhere, perhaps it had moved on or had somewhere else it also liked during the day. However after about 5 minutes of looking we found it hidden well back in the trees. Considering it is not that small a bird it was remarkably well concealed, its in the bottom left of the main tree in the picture below, almost impossible to see without bins or a big lens.

Night heron tree - pretty well hidden!

First things first and we took a little time to enjoy the bird, its not often that an adult bird appears in Ireland, usually 1st summers I imagine. It was an Irish tick for me, I dipped (like many of us) on the bird Mark Carmody found in 2008 at Cuskinny so I was pleased to be able to catch this one. Especially considering my recent dismal record.
The next thing was to get a nice picture, should only be a matter of patience........or so I thought. But there's a reason they're called Night Herons......they are mainly noctural birds, sleeping by day and active at night. According to Ken Preston, who joined us for a while, this bird gets active each evening around dark, it flies out from its roost and over towards the stream that runs behind the rugby club where presumably it clocks in and does it's night shift. Apart from some preening and a toilet break it did little else other than sit there and sleep.

Black-crowned Night Heron, Skibbereen, Co. Cork 8th April 2012

"Hard going these night shifts!"

Once in a while it opened its eyes and looked around before returning to its slumber. Sean Cronin if you're reading this I don't know how you got the shot you got, well done! It never appearred in the open for us sadly. We waited for 3 hours, thankfully there were nice seats and we had coffee and some lunch with us, so all in all it was quite a pleasant twitch really despite the bird's sleepy mood!

P waits for Night Heron to move!
On the way home I started to think how many of these I had seen. When I checked my notes at home I noted that I have seen Black-crowned Night Herons in Abuko, The Gambia, at Daan Viljoen Park near Windhoek in Namibia, at the S'Albufera Reserve in Mallorca, at Bourgas Lakes in Bulgaria and on the Potomac River near Washington DC. So they're quite a cosmopolitan species.
We both would have loved better views and some nicer photos but I am happy to have at least connected with the bird and to have added to my Irish list.


  1. Lovely to see some going out for it - we live close enough to be able to see it a bit more often, and we went down several days in a row to look for it. Managed some nice shots too - and videos of it fishing, but it did mean getting to Skib for about 6.00 - 6.30am - which also gave us rewarding sightings of otters, foxes, long eared owls... was lovely! Beautiful bird <3
    Laura Woods.

    1. Hi Laura, just looked at your shots on irishbirding. Excellent, very well done and well deserved if you got up so early. We were wondering about otters there also, looked like a likely spot! All the best....Graham.

    2. Thanks Graham! I was pleased enough with them, despite the noise from high ISO.

      There is an otter (possibly more than one) that uses that patch of the river very regularly. I've never yet managed a shot of him, but seen him a few times :) Also nice spot for foxes! :)

  2. The day it was found it spent from 11am - 5pm partially concealed in a tree about 50 feet back from the river, asleep. It woke a couple of times to preen but that was about it. I had to leave on the 5 bus for the last ferry, by which time I'd had enough of standing on the concrete sewerage block anyway (I hadn't figured out much better views could be had from the West Cork rather than the Eldon!). On seeing Laura's photos, I made five more visits to the site, all unsuccessful...oh well! Fab bird though :)