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Wednesday, 29 October 2008

AMERICAN GREEN-BACKED HERON - More shots by Ashley Stowe

American Green-backed Heron at Royal Military Canal, Hythe, Kent.

I arrived at 1.15pm and joined 20 or so birders watching the Green Heron next to the canal dam, it was sat in the water presumably standing on a sunken log and sat motionless for 5 or so minutes giving amazing views some 20ft away. It was obviously looking for small fry in the water and remained very calm and oblivious to the fact that everybody was watching it and at times almost seemed to enjoy the attention. It flew to beneath the bridge and perched on the concrete footings below the onlooking observers but soon crossed back over the canal and perched halfway up the reeds, it remained in the reeds for a further 10 minutes before flying west along the canal and out of sight. It was found 500yards further down the canal and an hour later at 2.27pm it returned to the dam and again showed extremely well. After standing in the water in almost the same place as it was earlier it flew to a nearby overhanging tree bow and crept up the bow to the top and scanned the water below, there must be a good supply of small fish/fry around the dam as every 10 or so minutes small numbers broke the surface followed by the large splash of what could only be a Pike chasing it's prey, this continued all afternoon. At about 3pm the Green Heron moved in to the reeds and slowly crept through them until it stopped and remained motionless, watching the water intently it suddenly lurched forward and pulled out a Perch which it soon devoured head first, Roy Woodward managed to capture this and the photos are on birdguides. I was surprised at how quickly it dispatched the perch especially with the amount of spines that Perch have on their dorsal fin, it went straight down and after a few bobs up and down and a quick almost burp like action it was swallowed. At 3.30pm the Heron was still sat in the reedbed where it remained till I left at 3.45pm.

During the time I watched the Green Heron it successfully caught small fry/fish from around the dam end of the canal, a few insects where also taken when it was in the reedbed and then later the Perch. A number of observers had also seen it catch a Perch earlier in the day. It doesn't seem to have any problems catching food and is propably in a prey rich enviroment, lets hope a Pike doesn't get it!

Fantastic bird and you couldn't wish for better views, it was so close and at times I was beginning to believe it was an escape


Ashley Stowe