"Living in west Wales I'm used to the odd visitor. Eight years ago a purple heron looked in for a week, an Osprey once spent an afternoon annoying the rest of the bird population and, if the weather is right, the variety of wildfowl can be outstanding.
But as I trundled round the garden on the back of the mower the one thing I wasn't expecting was a green heron. Partly because I didn't know there was such a thing, and partly because this is a west Wales garden, not a Costa Rican swamp.
When something quite so out of place appears it's time to take action. The curious bird took to the air just a few feet away from the mower, flew across the lake and then sat in a reed bed on the opposite bank. Bigger than a moorhen, smaller than most herons and waders and a beautiful chestnut red and slate grey-green. I knew there was only one thing to do. Get off the mower, try and get a photo and dig out the bird book. There was one flaw. My excellent Collins bird guide only covers the UK and Europe so once we had ruled out a Little Bittern (the only thing even faintly resembling our new addition) I knew it was a job for Kevin and his son Toby Phelps (tobysbirdingblog.blogspot.co.uk), near neighbours, friends and most importantly the best bird people I know.
Fortunately the heron had posed cooperatively in the April sun and we had a couple of decent pics. Within seconds of the email Kevin was on the phone and I knew he was excited. In the meantime Toby, already south of Bristol (2 hours away) en route to Cornwall, was exiting the southbound M5 and returning home.
We are lucky here that our garden is predominantly quite wild, with two ponds we put in some years back with habitat in mind. So for visiting birdwatchers, (and the first arrived from Loch Lomond at 5.45 on the first day) it's a case of setting up on the lawn outside the kitchen window.
And, thank goodness, "our" bird has performed, seemingly unconcerned by the attention, devouring several rudd and generally giving the enthusiasts who have come here a memorable entry in their albums."
Simon Hart MP
House of Commons
15, St John St
or 0207 219 3000