A second Cattle Egret at the Welsh Harp

A recent posting on this blog drew attention to the first ever Cattle Egret seen at Brent Reservoir. But remarkably, just three months later, there was another sighting of this rare species.

cattle egret 3
Cattle Egret, Brent Reservoir, 23 December 2018 (© Andrew Haynes 2018) 

On the morning of Sunday 23 December 2018 two birders were in the Main Hide and at first saw little of interest other than a couple of Little Egret feeding in the shallows. But then they noticed that on a nearby raft was another egret with a bill that was yellowish rather than black. It was a Cattle Egret — only the second for the site after a bird found just three months earlier. They alerted other local birders, but unfortunately the egret flew off south after just 20 minutes, before anyone else could arrive.

Slightly smaller than the Little Egret, the Cattle Egret is much rarer but is now visiting Britain in increasing numbers. Unlike other egrets, Cattle Egret are not normally found in wetland sites such as the Welsh Harp. They prefer damp meadows, where they tend to follow cattle or other livestock,  picking up insects and worms disturbed by the grazing animals’ hooves.

Since the observers had not seen the Cattle Egret arrive, it may have been there for a while but initially obscured by vegetation on the raft. Could it have roosted overnight and waited for the weather to improve before moving on? The bird three months earlier certainly seems to have roosted overnight, and it is possible that the same bird had reappeared, again using Brent Reservoir as a safe night-time stopover before flying off to more suitable feeding grounds.

On both occasions, only two birders saw the bird before it flew off. Other Brent Birders will now be studying the reservoir’s wading birds carefully, hoping for further visits by Cattle Egret.

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