Less than two months after the first ever report of a Cattle Egret at the Welsh Harp, the reservoir has now had a visit from another rare species of egret, a Great White Egret.
Only the fourth GW Egret ever recorded at the site, the bird was first seen from the WHCG’s main hide at 7.50am on Friday 16th November 2018. After about 25 minutes it flew off east, but was later seen on the reservoir’s north bank before flying away south at 9.30am.
Brent Reservoir’s previous records of this species were in May 1997 and in April and September 2013. The 1997 bird was also the first Great White Egret ever seen in the London recording area (defined by the London Natural History Society as anywhere within 20 miles of the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral). Like the latest bird, the 1997 egret spent a little while “on the deck” before it flew off, but the two 2013 birds were only seen flying over.
Both the Great White Egret and the Cattle Egret were once extremely rare in Britain, but they have both followed the example of Little Egret by slowly establishing a foothold here.
Both species now nest in England in small number. Breeding by Great White Egret was first confirmed on the Somerset Levels in 2012, and now about a dozen pairs nest there annually. Apart from an isolated instance in 2008 (when a single pair stayed to nest after an unusual large winter influx), Cattle Egret only began breeding here in 2017, when five pairs nested on the Somerset Levels.
The Little Egret has become a regular visitor to the Welsh Harp. If the Great White Egret and Cattle Egret continue to increase in number in Britain, we can also expect more sightings of both of these species in the future.