Sunday, 15 May 2011

The Egret Has Landed

Early this morning two Little Egrets flew over my home. A sighting which, although unusual enough to make a nice start to the day, is hardly likely to set the birding world alight. Twenty years ago it would have been a different story. At around that time I was down in Hampshire on an activity holiday with a group of boys from school and, while on a boating trip, a Little Egret was pointed out to us. It was one of only a handful of the species which had begun to settle on the South Coast.

A month or so ago I was in Norfolk and was approached by a fellow bird-watcher with the usual question "Anything about?" "Not a lot, plenty of Avocets and Egrets though". Avocets: another bird which has spread from just a few early colonisers in the last half-century.

Little Egret
That's what seems to be happening all the time; the ebb and flow of different species. More Red Kites, Buzzards, Goldfinches and Collared Doves, but decreasing numbers of Grey Partridges, Skylarks and Cuckoos, to name but a few of the winners and losers. Some birds, like the Red Kite, have benefited from man's intervention while others, like the Collared Dove have made it here on their own. No doubt some of the birds which are struggling to hang on would have lessened in numbers even without the environmental changes wrought by mankind.

Our attitudes towards different birds, and particularly the attitudes of birders, has always puzzled me. For some reason a bird which has arrived here as a result of human activity - birds which have been bred for shooting purposes or escaped from wildfowl collections, for example - are seen as some kind of lesser being and "don't really count" as wild birds. But Little Egrets, which have probably prospered as a result of global warming, and Red Kites, which have been deliberately bred and released by conservationists are something to get excited about.

What really gets people travelling hundreds of miles to glimpse though, are the poor little creatures that, either through bad navigation or being blown off-course by storms, have ended up shivering and bedraggled on some remote headland. I don't get it, why is a bird which has the initiative and resourcefulness to escape from captivity and then retains enough of its instinctive behaviour to survive in an alien environment, any less interesting than a lost and probably doomed stray.

Whatever the answers are to the questions posed in the above paragraphs I was extremely grateful for the two pure white birds, kissed by the dawn's early rays, that flew over my house this morning.

Take care.


  1. Little Egret's are beautiful aren't they? I've actually only ever seen them in Romania and have never yet seen an avocet. Hope to do something about that now that my younger son is living in Norfolk:) Istill haven't heard a cuckoo this year even though I've been to a couple of areas where I've heard them in recent years, maybe they just haven't arrived yet so I'll keep on hoping.

  2. How lovely, such graceful birds. I was watching a skylark soaring up from a field on the Solway Firth coast last week. Sadly I can't hear their song anymore, since I lost my hearing.

  3. You should be able to catch up with an avocet on the N Norfolk coast - try Cley or Titchwell RSPB sites. Sorry to learn that you can't hear the skylarks any more, that's really sad.

  4. They are beautiful. I guess I am not around birders at all, except in blogging so don't run into that mindset. To me a beautiful bird is a beautiful bird.


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