The Return of the Cattle Egret

26th July – 1st August

The Cattle Egret, once very rare is now an annual visitor to the reserve and one that can turn up on site at any time of the year usually between June and August. Prior to this weeks return one was last seen on the 31st December last year. After arriving towards the end of the breeding season at least one individual tends to stick around until the end of the year or until the first floods. A juvenile Little Egret with a yellow bill caused a bit of a stir of Sunday 25th imposing as a Cattle Egret but its long legs and neck, and its plume gave its real identification away, but it was only a matter of time before the presumed yearly visitor would turn up. A bird was reported on Wednesday 28th but was thought to be the Little Egret imposter, only for it to be confirmed by a visitor looking down on to the flashes from the Roy Taylor Trail the following day when he spotted an Egret perched on the back of one the highland cows, snapping the below image with his iPhone.

Photo credit – James Pieslak

That evening (Thursday 29th) a couple of local birders were intensely watching the group of cattle in anticipation for a glimpse of the visiting Egret but were amazed to find there were actually two birds present on site. Both birds were feeding amongst the cows on the southern side of Spoonbill Flash viewed from the screen along Arrow Lane.

This striking pair are still in adult summer plumage, showing off their bright yellow bills and orange tone to the feathers on the crown, breast and mantle. Unlike Great White and Little Egrets that feed in the shallows of the waters edge Cattle Egrets will forage amongst grazing cattle plucking out frogs and toads that are disturbed as well as lots of insects. When in flight they hold their heads retracted to the body hiding their short neck.

Cattle Egret in flight – Joe Seymour

Other Highlights

Marsh Harrier has been a frequent sighting over the past week with a cream crown hunting around the flashes and occasionally landing on the edges of Spoonbill and New Flash. Spoonbills are still ever present across the western part of the reserve, often viewed on the Moat from the Roy Taylor Trail and across flashes with 12 recorded feeding on Spoonbill Flash on the 29th. On the same day a Hobby flew south; as a Short-eared Owl passed through east after being chased off by a juvenile Peregrine. With the warm weather recently and the water levels being lowered there has been a couple of wader sightings from across the flashes. A Little Ringed Plover was present on the island on Spoonbill Flash on the 29th whilst a Common Sandpiper was on New Flash on the 31st along with 5 Yellow Wagtails. 10 Little Egrets and 4 Green Sandpipers were noted on the flashes on the 1st.
A Tufted Duck/Red-crested Pochard hybrid was reported on Village Bay on the 31st. The 2 Egyptian Geese were recorded back on Main Bay on the 1st. The 2 Cattle Egrets are still present.

Short-eared Owl, Flashes 29th – Joe Seymour

The sunny weather has also brought out an array of butterflies and the results of a count on the 29th follows.
Comma 3, Speckled Wood 20+, Gatekeeper 30+, Green-veined White 10-12, Meadow Brown 3 and a single Red Admiral.
Dragonflies have also emerged with the heat as Common and Migrant Hawkers have been reported along with Common Darters.
3 Stone/Red-tail, a Large Earth/Buff Tail and 2 Early Bumblebees, all workers, have also been noted.

Comma Butterfly – Keith Boyer

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