Cattle Egret, Aylmerton
I’d got a pre-arranged early morning meeting with Richard from the National Trust, to talk to him about our proposed repeat of the ’97 Felbrigg Breeding Bird Survey. It was still pretty dark as I walked down The Street towards the Wood Yard, where he has his office. I’d just got to the edge of the village when a heron sp. flew over the road, from the direction of the rough grazing meadow. Looking at the bird in silhouette it appeared rather too small and compact for Grey Heron, giving more the impression of a Bittern perhaps! I dived through the gap in the hedge, just in case, and watched the bird drop down into the cow field, between the allotments and Saw Mill Cottage. By this time I could see that it was an egret sp and a probable Cattle!! It was still only half light and although the profile of the bird was right – with heavy jowls, short bill, rounded head, and the behaviour was right – feeding at the heels of a black cow, I still couldn’t see the bill. I quickly phoned Jake to get him to bring my scope and texted/called a few of the locals. Jake arrived and through the scope we could clearly see the yellow bill – bingo! The bird fed for the next few minutes before finally being spooked by the agitations of the accompanying gull flock. It took off and did a long low loop over towards Felbrigg Park, turned round when it got near to the Smithy and flew back along the wood, up Scarrow Beck and was finally lost from view, heading towards Aylmerton church. The bird, which has been looked for for most of the day, has yet to put in another appearance. A ‘first’ for the parish and Felbrigg Park and only the second record in the NENBC area – the last being at Alby & Gunton in 1995 . The amazing ‘purple patch’ continues!
A couple more record shots, taken at 1/5th on 6,400 ISO!
Post Script: Further to helpful comments from James E., there was another previous record of Cattle Egret in the NENBC area, in 2009 at Matlaske. This one then becomes the third.