Saturday, 7 December 2013
I finally found time to twitch the CATTLE EGRET.........
SATURDAY 7 DECEMBER
I finally had an opportunity to visit CALVERT BBOWT this morning and as the light was coming up, young Ted Wallen, his dad Mike and I watched the CATTLE EGRET awakening from its overnight roost spot in the 'Cormorant Trees' about 100 yards south of the middle hide. After a few stretches and preens, it flew off NNE at 0733 hours - and still barely light.
Once it had gone, I set off in search of its daytime feeding area, scanning the array of farms, fields and open countryside to the north of the Calvert complex. After hearing of reports of a white egret with cattle midway between Steeple Claydon and Hillesden Lakes, I made my way to 'The Avenue' and walked about a mile along it. No sign I am afraid (not of the egret nor of the cattle) but HILLESDEN LAKES did support 28 Greylag Geese, 10 Eurasian Wigeon, 8 Common Teal and 12 Coot, whilst the surrounding area produced 85 Fieldfare, 35 Redwing, Goldcrest, 4 Bullfinch, 60 Common Starling and 18 Long-tailed Tits.
Fieldfares: a lot around today in the Hillesden area
I then drove a wide circuit of rural countryside finding nothing more than 45 Linnets at BORSHAW FARM at SP 738 228, eventually joining up again with Mike & Ted at Briarhill Farm not long after 0900 hours. It seemed a hopeless task and knowing that I had a survey to carry out, headed back to the CHESS VALLEY........
All 3 wintering Little Egrets were on view in the valley, commuting between Bois Mill and Church Covert Meadows, whilst the family party of 5 Mute Swans and immature Sinensis Cormorant were still present on BOIS MILL POND. A female Grey Wagtail was by MILL FARM, whilst walking between CHENIES BOTTOM BRIDGE and FROGMORE MEADOWS added 4 Redwing, 25 Fieldfare, Song Thrush, 6 more Mute Swan (pair by bridge and pair by Vole Viewpoint, both with sole surviving cygnets), 2 Grey Heron, Jay, Common Kestrel and 2 Ring-necked Parakeets.
My survey work involved a visit to CRESTYL WATERCRESS BEDS at SARRATT, where 2 Little Egrets, 8 Moorhen, 2 Grey Wagtail, Marsh Tit and Little Owl were all encountered but more importantly was the discovery of at least 23 Water Vole burrows.
Once I had completed my work, I checked my phone and pager and noticed that the CATTLE EGRET had been relocated. I 'phoned Simon and he confirmed that both Mike and Ted had relocated it - only a short time after I had left - Drat!
Anyhow, keen to photograph it, I drove the 37 miles back and located it just SSE of LAKE FARM at SP 682 264, feeding in an open field. Frustratingly, it was behind a hedgerow and I could just not find a gap from where I could get a full view. When I finally did, it flew and seemed to disappear behind a farm building. I then lost it but after a while of searching, relocated it at a private site near PORTWAY FARM. It was with cattle at the back of a farmstead but quite distant but I did at last manage to get a few record shots (see below). Once it saw me however, it was gone and darted back eastwards towards Lake Farm. I followed it along the road but then lost it as it crossed back over the Calvert-Gawcott road. By now, Graham Smith and quite a few others had arrived and despite searching over the next hour, it could not be relocated. Then, following some gunshots from some farmers shooting Woodpigeons, it reappeared from the Calvert Lakes direction and landed NW of Lake Farm - in the field at SP 678 266. Here it afforded the best views yet and I was able to run off a lot of shots before it gradually wandered farther away. The late afternoon light was not great but I was reasonably happy with the shots. The bird was unringed and in full winter plumage. It remained until at least 1530 hours.