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Little egret

January 7, 2012
Little Egret

Image by Frankzed via Flickr

For the second time in the last month, I saw a little egret, Egretta garzetta, on the farm this morning. It’s a big white bird and very much a relative of the grey heron which we see pretty regularly around the fields.

Although this one, we saw at a distance of several hundred metres, there’s no mistaking the species. I had heard that there’s been a great egret in Bedfordshire (at Brogborough Lake) this week, and I did initially wonder if this might be the big one. Actually, at that distance, size is very difficult to judge, so maybe… chances are that it was the little one and I’m happy with that.

Wikipedia suggests that the species was common in the northern UK until the mid-Sixteenth Century when it became extinct. Numbers declined rapidly in Europe until it became restricted to the south by the 1950s, after its plumage had become popular with hat manufacturers (along with those of the great-crested grebe).

The first English breeding pair in modern times took up residence on the Dorset coast in 1998 and the species is now spreading rapidly.

This individual spent some time dodging occasional dog walkers, flying between trees and we got to thinking about it surveying nest sites – pretty unlikely, but you never know.

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