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. Pembrokeshire County Bird Recorder 1981-2007

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

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. Pembrokeshire County Bird Recorder 1981-2007

More about the Little Egret in Pembrokeshire

Little Egret – 2003-07

 Egretta garzetta – CREYR BACHOccasional visitor

Little Egrets were considered to be rare vagrants to Britain and Ireland until 1989 when the first of many influxes of birds into southern England occurred.  Since then, there has been a dramatic increase in numbers of Little Egrets in southern Britain, thought to be linked to the breeding success at French colonies.  The species is now very firmly established as a winter visitor to Pembrokeshire, with up to 70-80 Little Egrets over-wintering on the estuaries and open coast.

They utilise coastal lagoons, saltmarsh, brackish marsh and rocky shores as well as estuarine mud flats.  They roost communally, often sharing tree roosts with Grey Herons.  Since the mid 1990s, Little Egrets have been present in small numbers in the Milford Haven Waterway & Daugleddau Estuary during the spring and summer months (Hodges 1992-2007), and during the 2003-07 tetrad survey, breeding was finally confirmed.

Without doubt, the recent series of mild, virtually frost- and snow-free winters has been a major factor in the steady increase in the wintering population in the county, with some birds choosing to remain in Pembrokeshire to breed.  Clearly, there is suitable nesting and foraging habitat in the estuaries to support a breeding population of Little Egrets.  They are, however, extremely vulnerable to prolonged spells of cold winter weather, and their future as a breeding species in the county is inextricably linked to the severity of winters. Little Egrets are likely to gain “climate space” as a result of predicted climate change, and hence it seems likely that they will continue to become established as a breeding species in Pembrokeshire.

Jane Hodges

Records extracted from the Pembrokeshire Bird Reports, which may contain more detail than shown here.

More about the Little Egret in Pembrokeshire

Little Egret – 1994

 Egretta garzetta – CREYR BACHOccasional visitor

The first Little Egret was seen at Goodwick in November 1909, the next at Dale on 25 May 1938 and on 8-12 May 1949 ( Lockley et al. 1949). Thereafter it remained occasional but has occurred more frequently in recent years (see Table).

DecadeNo of years in which seen
1950s1
1960s2
1970s2
1980s4
1990-934

Most occurrences up to the 1980s were in the spring months of April to June, although long stayers had overwintered. However, in the 1990s Little Egrets have occurred more in the late autumn, October to November, with a greater tendency to overwinter. Most have been single birds but three together have been noted and seven were present in the Cleddau Estuary in early 1993. Most records are from the estuaries of the Cleddau, Nevern and Teifi but they have occurred briefly elsewhere, for example at St Davids on 23 November 1991 and at Fishguard on 22 December 1992.

Donovan J.W. & Rees G.H, 1994, Birds of Pembrokeshire

More about the Little Egret in Pembrokeshire

Little Egret

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

Little Egret – 2012

 Egretta garzetta – CREYR BACH – Winter 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 […]

Little Egret – 2011 expansion

 Egretta garzetta – CREYR BACH – Winter 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 […]

Little Egret – 2003-07

 Egretta garzetta – CREYR BACH – Occasional visitor Little Egrets were considered to be rare vagrants to Britain and Ireland until 1989 when the first of many influxes of birds into southern England occurred.  Since then, there has been a dramatic increase in numbers of Little Egrets in southern Britain, thought to be linked to […]

Little Egret – 1994

 Egretta garzetta – CREYR BACH – Occasional visitor The first Little Egret was seen at Goodwick in November 1909, the next at Dale on 25 May 1938 and on 8-12 May 1949 ( Lockley et al. 1949). Thereafter it remained occasional but has occurred more frequently in recent years (see Table). Decade No of years in which seen […]

Little Egret – 1949

Species account from the Birds of Pembrokeshire, 1949, by Lockley, Ingram and Salmon.