27th August 2017
Cattle Egrets – first breeding success in Devon
Cattle Egrets were a rarity for the Thurlestone Bay patch with only two records in the last 7 years. The last large influx into Devon was 2008 when around 40 birds recorded including sightings on South Huish Marsh and South Efford Marsh (Aveton Gifford).
First signs of arrival were 1 on 23rd January and 2 on 24th and 25th in slurry fields near South Huish Marsh.
In February numbers increased to 5 from 26th – 28th these were found feeding in a barren kale field along the road from South Milton to the Coast.
Birds present throughout April with a max of 8 again South Huish Marsh. First signs of movement to and from the Avon Estuary with 5 on Thurlestone Marsh on 21st.
During May the year’s maximum were 11 on 9th reducing to a regular count of 2 towards the end of the month.
In June 3 adults recorded regularly on South Huish Marsh with movement noted to and from the Avon Estuary.
On 13th July, 3 birds photographed on South Efford Marsh 2 definite juveniles showing a black bill, and a dark grey bill, the third bird has a very pale orange bill but does not show any breeding plumage. Next day there were 2 adults and 2 juveniles on South Huish Marsh. On 24th July Dave Pakes recorded 4 juveniles on South Efford Marsh. Still regular sightings of adults in distinctive breeding plumage and at least 2 deemed non breeding adults.
There is a Heronry located along the Avon Estuary which has a breeding Little Egret colony. This is on private land forming part of the Bantham Estate and has no public access. A telescope is necessary to view the trees in which the Egrets breed. Two evening visits to the area were made and confirmation that Cattle Egrets were present at the site.
Until fully fledged young were seen on the Marshes the possibility of breeding was kept to only a few of the local birders with news being put out on 14th July.
Consensus of opinion is that 2 pairs have raised a total of 4 juveniles – the first breeding success in Devon.
With a large influx of birds in England this year other breeding successes have been reported in Cheshire, Dorset and Somerset.
Many thanks to the local birders who kept a close watch on these birds – Rod Bone, Alan Doidge, Dave Pakes, Nick Townsend and Eric Wotton.
Thurlestone Bay Birds