Sunday, 11 December 2016

Cattle Egret

With not much to see over the past week on patch (mostly due to the horribly mild weather I presume) other than gulls, there's only really been one rarity on my radar. 

It's turning out to be the best UK Cattle Egret influx since 2008/09, with small numbers appearing (mostly in the south west) during the past week.  Back in 2009 we all thought it was the start of 'another Little Egret story', but since then they have become somewhat rare. So it's really nice to see a good flurry of records and reports of small flocks on the bird news websites again. Even better is the fact it's half a month away from my Patchwork Challenge year listing attempt!

Although we've not got many cattle in the river valley at the moment, we do have some, and plenty of Little Egrets so I've been optimistic for one here within the last week. But with no luck during the days I knew my next best chance was to watch the evening egret roost at Axmouth, the bonus is this will include birds that have been feeding outside the patch boundary during the day. My first free late afternoon slot was Saturday (yesterday), so at 16:10 I parked up at Coronation Corner and waited. And isn't it nice when a plan works...

The weather was really cloudy and grim, so by 16:20 it was almost completely dark. I'd seen about 25 Little Egrets come into roost (they always fly in from up river) when I picked up another egret flying in that I immediately knew was going to be a Cattle.

This shows that getting your 'eye in' really does make a massive difference. Because in the previous five minutes I'd seen numerous Little Egrets on the very same flight line, when this one came into view I could tell it was smaller and flying with quicker and shallower wing beats.  It was so dark that it wasn't until it flew over the road and into the roost site that I could see the crucial bits, but thankfully I could see it all clearly enough (completely different head and bill shape, all yellow bill, shorter legs, etc).  I found it interesting that it came down river and into roost all on its own, does this mean it had used this roost before?

This was my first patch Cattle Egret since 11th April 2014 (have missed one in between) so it was really great to see, but I doubt any will ever beat this beaut from June 2008...

Breeding plumaged adult Cattle Egret on the Axe Estuary 02/06/08

Bun probably had the Cattle Egret again tonight. Sadly it was too late and it was completely pitch black, so all he saw was a 'smaller egret' drop in, he just didn't get enough on it.  Hopefully tomorrow though I will be able to find where it's hanging out in the day...

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