Little Egret – 2011 expansion

 Egretta garzetta – CREYR BACHWinter visitor and passage migrant which has bred.

Little Egrets have a widespread breeding range encompassing southern and central Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. They began extending their wintering range in western France from 1974/75, reaching the northern coast during the course of 25 years, where nesting followed from 1988 and it is likely that dispersing birds from this population resulted in a flow into southern Britain.

The first recorded in Pembrokeshire was at Goodwick Moor as long ago as November 1909, when the species was a vagrant to Britain. The first for Britain was in Yorkshire in 1826 and very few were noted in the country during the 19th and the first half of the 20th century. Singles at Dale in May 1938 and May 1949 were among those few.

The modern ingress to Britain showed an understandable concentration on the south coast of England nearest area to France between Sussex and Cornwall. Commencing with a few birds in the 1950’s and 1960’s, it slowly gathered numerical momentum through the 1970’s and 1980’s.

In Pembrokeshire during this period, singles were seen at Goodwick in April 1955, at Little Milford in June 1962 and at the Gann in August 1962. One which commuted between the Gann and Sandy Haven Pill from October 1969 until April 1971 was joined by another on the 9th November 1969 which disappeared in mid December, believed to have been shot. It was thought that this was the same bird as seen at Fishguard in mid October 1969 and at Solva on the 29th and 30th October 1969.

Two others were at the Gann on the 15th May 1970, one was at Martin’s Haven from the 20th November 1972 to the 14th January 1973, one at Skokholm on the 18th May 1983, one at the Teifi Estuary from the 30th April 1984 which was presumed to have moved to the Nevern Estuary on the 2nd and 3rd June 1984 and one was at Sandy Haven Pill on the 19th and 20th May 1987.

There was a marked arrival in Britain in 1989, with peaks in May, August and December, probably totalling 120 birds. Pembrokeshire’s share was two at the Nevern Estuary on the 10th December, one remaining until the 19th.

From that year onwards the species occurred annually in the county in increasing numbers. These were exciting times for local observers, for the Little Egret was classified as a national rarity until the BBRC removed it from their list after 1990. Nonetheless this attractive and usually conspicuous bird continued to capture observers’ attention and up to about 1996 was well reported locally. Thereafter people became more blasé about seeing them and did not register their sightings so assiduously.

Graham Rees (County bird recorder 1981 to 2007)

More about the Little Egret in Pembrokeshire