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Squacco Heron, Blagdon

Squacco Heron

Twenty months since my last lifer and six since my last British species, this one was a corker. Perched openly in a tree with its long black-bordered plumes, the heron put me in mind of Rod Stewart. (Did I ever tell you my Rod Stewart story?…)

So what’s a squacco heron doing in Somerset? And what does squacco mean? The bird is a Mediterranean migrant from Africa so this one has overshot. The Bay of Biscay looks to be the most northerly colony. The species is in the same Ardeola genus as Chinese pond heron, which I saw in Singapore. That puts it before the cattle egrets and true herons, and after North America’s green heron.

Squacco seems to come from the Italian name for the bird. Some chap called Francis Willughby coined it but, more important, got the serious taxonomy ball rolling in the process. Ball rolling is an apt metaphor because he also gave an early description of the game of football. And with no end to the trivia he was born at Middleton Hall, now an RSPB reserve.

Betcha you’re glad you learned that.

Chew Valley was quieter but Herriotts held a splendid drake garganey, a couple of shovelers and still a goldeneye. I completed the three reservoirs at Barrow Gurney, where I first heard sand martins then, with delight, found their nesting bank. I have a dim memory of hearing about this. It’s artificial of course but makes the yomp round both tanks worthwhile in the summer.

So a fine day out after recent incarceration to get new versions of Let the Time Come and The Honeyeaters’ Tree to the printers. Still working on ‘em though…

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