Sunday, 23 September 2012

GREAT WHITE EGRET at Wilstone Reservoir


It was obvious today was going to be a good day. The wind was in the east and heavy rain was forecast to come in - ideal conditions for birds to be moving in front of the weather.....

As such, I headed down to the reservoirs to see what was happening

First bird I set eyes upon was a juvenile NORTHERN GANNET in the extreme NE corner of STARTOP'S END RESERVOIR - straddling the shoreline. I telephoned RBA immediately of my find, then Dave Bilcock and then JT. Dave arrived within 15 minutes but it appeared the bird was dead. I picked it up.

I then went to check the wildfowl numbers on WILSTONE RESERVOIR...

Scanning from the bank by the car park steps, I picked up an egret flying in high over DRAYTON BEAUCHAMP (BUCKS) at 0945 hours that had an all-orange bill - it was a GREAT WHITE EGRET ! It kept on flying towards the reservoir and flew along the line of the Black Poplars before checking out the ditch behind the Drayton Bank Hide. It then circled round over the hide and flew along to the right and landed on a muddy fringe at the edge of the reedbed about 150 yards right of the hide. Frustratingly, I didn't have Steve Rodwell's phone number (who I knew was sitting in the hide) so I phoned Dave Bilcock so that he could get in touch with him. Minutes later, Dave Hutchinson phoned (who was also sat in the hide) to say that they had just seen it and he had managed to photograph it !

Despite being pestered by a Grey Heron a few times, it eventually settled into feeding and could be easily viewed from near the car park steps or from the overflow. Once again, I phoned RBA, DB and JT within a MINUTE of me first seeing it arrive. It remained on view until at least early afternoon. Within a very short while, twitchers began arriving, with DB, Chaz Jackson and Mike Campbell soon to be followed by John Foster, Brendan Glynn, Chris White, Bill Pegram, Ian Williams, Lucy Flower, Paul Reed and the majority of the Tring regulars.

It was an unringed individual and most likely the same bird that has returned for three consecutive winters, being seen in the Chess Valley in its first year and in the Linford area last winter.

Wilstone also harboured 5 LITTLE EGRETS this morning, with wildfowl including at least 28 Mute Swans, 135 Common Teal, 59 Wigeon, 61 Shoveler, the 3 NORTHERN PINTAIL (2 drakes and a female - present for two weeks now), 32 Pochard and 73 Tufted Duck. A single RINGED PLOVER was feeding on the mud in the NW corner (for its second day), with 29 Lapwing, an adult Common Gull with the Black-heads and a Common Kingfisher flashing by. A tremendous number of HOUSE MARTINS was present - at least 230.

Just as the rain started at 1050 hours, Steve, I and others watched a juvenile ARCTIC TERN arrive......perhaps a precursor of what to come. An enjoyable morning

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