The late summer evening in August 2020 was surprisingly cool, although the hike from the parking lot to the river bank section turned out to be sweaty. In Ornitho.de a Black-crowned Night-Heron, (Nycticorax nycticorax) had been reported from the Siegaue near Bonn. That would be a nice observation. There were already other interested birders on site. I took out the camera, sat on the dusty, loamy river bank and stabilized the Canon EF 400mm f4.0 DO IS II USM on my knees. I noticed how dusk arrived and it was getting darker and darker. Then from around 8.45 p.m., a movement on a poplar made us curious. A young Black-crowned Night-Heron, could actually be seen a little further to the left of the usual spot. The bird started looking for prey from a branch of poplar. Once to the right, once to the left. But the yield did not seem productive. It stayed only briefly on the opposite bank. Then at around 9 p.m. it silently flew up the river.
Already on August 11th the sighting of a Black-crowned Night-Heron, by the NSG “Dondorfer See” had been reported in a gravel pit very close to the river Sieg, a tributary of the mighty Rhine. In the following days, however, the young Black-crowned Night-Heron, was spotted again and again at the same point at the Sieg. The comment of one of the observers was “..
Nomen est omen: after it has probably not been seen during the day, only comes out of the thicket after dark, at 9:05 p.m., at exactly the same place as in the early morning, initially stands on the same branch, then something flies further into the willow bushes and finally in the opposite direction upwards from it.
I wanted to see that too. So one day at around 5 p.m. I drove to the Siegaue nature reserve, which borders the city of Niederkassel. I hiked through the not particularly large, structurally rich floodplain landscape and was also able to find the spot that was shown in Ornitho.de. I stayed until 7:30 p.m. and enjoyed a pair of chasing Common Kingfishers (Alcedo atthis). The Heron was not (yet) to be seen. I was hungry and didn’t give myself too much hope. In the evening I saw a report in Ornitho.de: “Free standing since arrival at around 8:20 pm. Then it flies downhill at 8:52 p.m. and lands on a gravel bank directly in front of two anglers before the twilight swallows it.” I only missed the Black-crowned Night-Heron, briefly. For me it was questionable whether I had even looked from the right place. I therefore made an inquiry to one of the successful observers as to whether the observation was made from the opposite side of the river (i.e. from the west called the Kemper Werth) or from the Nature reserve itself. The answer came promptly: “Yes, the only possibility of observation is from the opposite bank of the Sieg, i.e at Kemper Werth. There are a few places there, before the woods begins, where you can freely look to the other side. The bird spends the day in the branches of a fallen poplar and only appears after sunset, in the past few days even after 9 p.m. Once I was able to see him in the very first light early in the morning, but then he was gone immediately. In addition, it is of course excellently camouflaged. The fallen poplar should be easy to see. It is advisable to be patient and look calmly from the other side of the river.
There are only remnants of the former alluvial forest belt along the Rhine between Bonn and Düsseldorf. Above all, the old arms are only present in meager remnants. The Siegaue near Bonn with its former side arms forms an extensive Rheinaue landscape, characterized by sometimes centuries-old trees. The nature reserve, which is noisy from motorways and busy federal roads, represents a remarkably beautiful piece of nature with old trees and sweeping gravel banks when the water is low.
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