Posted by: Ross Gardner | December 17, 2015

You can take the bird from the Mediterranean………

This is not the first time that the Little Egret has appeared on these pages.  I have written before of how they have spread and bred since colonising the UK around the turn of the century; how they are now common sight, certainly around the sheltered coasts and marshes of the south.  Yesterday, however, saw a personal first.  I saw one in the woods.

For some reading this who are local to my corner of Southeast Essex the name Belfairs Woods may have a familiar ring.  If it doesn’t, it is doubtless somewhere that fits the description of some other wood somewhere else in the county, quite sizeable and located on the edge of town.  It has a stream running through it.  Not the best quality water, although not an open sewer or anything like that.  Some stretches still have sticklebacks, but there is not a lot else to be found in it, although it doubtless has is own, limited ecology.

Especially in any area of the wood heavily frequented by people and dogs, it is not a water-course where one would expect to see a gleaming white heron, lifting itself laboriously upward into the branches of the over-arching hornbeams and oaks.  But there it was, doing just that, circling briefly beneath the canopy before alighting on a branch in clear view and about as conspicuously white as a bird could be.  Like the Grey Heron, Little Egrets are tree-nesters and I know of a couple of local roosts where they can be seen gathering in treetops in the dusk by the dozen.  There is nevertheless, something curiously incongruous about herons in trees, I guess because we see them more often than not stalking the shallows of estuary or marsh and not rubbing shoulders with woodpeckers and jays.

There is something unshakeably exotic about these birds, all the more so in a December wood – you can take the bird from the Mediterranean, but you can’t take the Mediterranean out of the bird.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), photographed at Brownsea Island, Dorset.  Copyright 2012 Ross Gardner.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), photographed at Brownsea Island, Dorset. Copyright 2012 Ross Gardner.

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