Little Egret – 2012

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

Migration

Notable visible movements recorded were of one flying to the south, towards Devon, at Penally on the 1st May 1997, three flying eastwards towards the mainland at Skomer on the 4th September 2003, four flying north west towards Ireland at Strumble Head on the 24th August 2004, a single bird doing likewise there on the 27th August 2006, also two heading north east towards Ceredigion on the 9th August 2005, nine heading north west out to sea at St David’s Head on the 9th July 2009.

Breeding

In March 1995 five Little Egrets were noted displaying at a heronry and in 1996 two birds were seen sitting on nests, as was one in 2003. It is not known whether these breeding attempts were successful. Also in 2003 what was probably a fledgling was seen near another heronry, where two adults had been seen previously. A group of nine at Quoits Marsh on the 1st August 2008 were thought to be two family parties. A juvenile being fed by an adult at the Eastern Cleddau in June 2009 may have indicated breeding had taken place in the vicinity. Two or three occupied nests with young were noted at one Cleddau site in 2010.

Winter

The main locality where Little Egrets were seen during the expansion period was the Cleddau Estuary, which has many scattered inlets. The systematic monthly WeBS counts, running from September to March, became the foundation for monitoring numerical presence and population trends (Haycock, 2006). Cover for the months April to August were assessed from general observations reported, augmented by information gathered as a side product of the PCNPA’s annual Shelduckling surveys (Hodges, 1991-2006)

The possible alternative of counting birds attending roosts turned out to be less useful, as those located, such as at Brunt Wood and Carew Mill Pond, were not consistently occupied over time. 

The majority (64%) of Little Egrets recorded at the Cleddau Estuary up to 1988 were in the spring, predominantly in May. Thereafter, up to 2002, most arrived during the winter months and from 2003 peak numbers occurred in September.

Musgrove (2002) established a pattern had emerged in Britain of peak arrival in September with a smaller peak again in March. A small March peak seems to have also occurred on the Cleddau Estuary since 2003. These developments have taken place during the period when Little Egrets were progressively colonising southern England as a breeding bird.

The smaller estuaries of the Nevern and the Teifi have also proved attractive to Little Egrets, in numbers appropriate to their size. Two to four birds has been the normal presence at the Nevern Estuary from 1993, but up to five were noted in 2001 and 2005 and none were seen in 1998 and 1999. There was an average presence of four at the Teifi Estuary over the same period, with five in 2006, six in 2003 and 2005 and 12 for a brief part of November 2001.

The Little Egret has displayed a degree of restlessness and exploration during its range expansion into Pembrokeshire. It expanded its feeding range to areas adjacent to the estuaries where cattle and cattle feeders were present and was seen picking over freshly ploughed land.

 It has also been encountered at many rocky localities around the coast, such as Martin’s Haven, Trefin and Cwm yr Eglwys, visiting the offshore islands of Skokholm, Skomer, Ramsey and even Grassholm, sheltered areas like Fishguard Harbour and Solva, streams and ponds like Newgale Marsh, Afon Alun, Trefeiddan, Bosherston , Heathfield, Withybush, Manorteifi and further inland at Ffynone and Llys y fran Reservoir.

Graham Rees (County bird recorder 1981 to 2007)

HAYCOCK. A. 2008. A review of the status of wetland birds in the Milford Haven Waterway and Daugleddau Estuary, A report to the Milford Haven Waterway Environmental Surveillance Group. Unpublished.

HODGES. J. E, Reports for 1991 – 2006. Daugleddau and Milford Haven Waterway, Surveillance of summer Shelduck populations, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority. Unpublished.

MUSGROVE. A. J. 2002. The non-breeding status of the Little Egret in Britain, British Birds, Vol. 95, 62 – 80.

More about the Little Egret in Pembrokeshire