SUMMER is on its way and already tourists are flocking to Bournemouth, among them one very special visitor.

The night heron is rarely seen in the UK, but keen wildlife photographer Mark Brazier came across this unlikely sight while walking through the Stour Valley Nature Reserve on a sunny Tuesday evening.

He instantly recognised the bird and was able to take these photographs and capture it in its full glory.

"This splendid bird was in full view and it was a real and special pleasure to not only watch, but to take a few pictures without disturbing it," he said.

"The night heron is a rare visitor to our shores, and the fact that the Stour Valley seems to be a suitable location for it to spend some time is very encouraging.

"Many species thrive here, and the new plans for the wildflower garden, pond and general planting at Muscliffe will surely attract even more wildlife, and hopefully encourage even more people to enjoy nature at its best."

Mr Brazier said a black-crowned night heron, named for its nocturnal feeding habits and the distinctive black feathers on its head, had been spotted in the same area back in 2011, and he suspected it might be the same bird.

"In April 2011 I talked to bird-watchers who had travelled from all over the country to catch a glimpse of this rare visitor," said Mr Brazier, who lives in nearby Ensbury Park.

"Many spent several hours with only the occasional glimpse of the night heron, hidden by branches and reeds."

The species Latin name - Nycticorax nycticorax - refers to the bird's distinctive crow-like call.

It is most commonly found in warm, tropical regions, but is an occasional visitor to continental Europe.