7 Sept 2014

7 Sep 14 - A Great Heron On The Patch

As mentioned in the Roesel's Bush Cricket post, I have just managed to find a good bird at Middlebere. I had gone out for the early morning high tide in the hope of Little Stint or Curlew Sandpiper being pushed up in front of the hide. Little Stint would be a Middlebere Tick & I've only seen Curlew Sandpipers there on 5 occasions, involving a total of 7 individuals. Most end up visiting Brownsea & staying there until they leave Poole Harbour. But with both species being recently seen on Brownsea & also slumming it Lytchett Bay, then there is always a chance. But neither turned up today. But there were a few other interesting birds seen which I will cover in another post, as I haven't got the time to edit those photos today. As I was walking back up the track, I thought I would have a quick look in the other Northern arm of the Wytch Channel as that is also visible from the Middlebere area. There is a hide, but like most visitors I rarely visit it as the channel is normally very quiet. Instead, I decided to scan from the far end of the channel, rather than look from the hide. There was a mass of Canada Geese & standing among them a Great White Egret. Wow: Great White Egrets are really elusive in Poole Harbour & rarely seem to be seen by reliable Birders.
Great White Egret: Not a great shot, but I needed a record shot as it would take a few minutes to get to the hide & I wasn't going to wait then for a photo as that would be its cue to depart. The orange bill, size & ungainly neck shape are just about apparent
I quickly got to the hide to find a couple of visitors there. I quickly asked it the Egret was still there & was met with surprise I knew about it, until I explained I had been watching it from the other end of the channel. Then it was time to grab a few more shots & phone the news out more widely. Although the first phone calls had begun from the end of the channel.
Great White Egret: Note, the long kinked neck, long & thick orange bill & black legs
This is only my second Poole Harbour GWE, after finally seeing the first on 18 May this year after several hours staking out the Wareham Channel from the late afternoon to the evening. That individual had finally shown itself after a 4.5 hours vigil, when it flew towards Arne from the Piddle valley, about 30 minutes before dusk. It had been my 10th attempt of looking for that ultra elusive bird.
Great White Egret: Oh look, it's got 2 babies with it! The size comparison against these Little Egrets shows how large they are
The bird I saw in May had been hanging around from early Winter to about mid June this year & which was only reliably seen on about 10 occasions in that period: it seemed to be feeding up the Frome & Piddle valleys & flying into the harbour to roost. There are plenty of other reports of Great White Egrets, as this seems to be the most strung species in Poole Harbour for inexperienced Birders (I guess a good record from an inexperienced birder does occasionally get overlooked). Then after a couple of months of no sightings, local Birder Graham Armstrong saw one at South Haven on 15 Aug. It flew out of the South Haven pool, but Graham saw it again an hour later in the same area, after which it disappeared for good. Graham & I have both spent a fair bit of time around Studland trying to relocate it over the last couple of weeks, but I assumed it had quickly moved on out Poole Harbour as they just don't stick around: about 5 minutes would be a long observation in the Harbour. So I was really shocked to find this Bird. It stayed around till about 14:30 (3 hours after being initially found) when it walked out of sight at the bottom end of the channel: as the tide had dropped a long way. I was due to do the monthly WeBS count of the lower channel at 15:30, but it sounds like it flew off some time before I arrived. A real shame as it would have been great to see it on my WeBS count. But it was seen by Durwyn Liley flying over his WeBS sector in the direction of Studland. It was also seen by Jon Bellamy at Littlesea, Studland while he was doing his WeBS count. This was suddenly more tantalising as it was now back on my Studland patch. I spent an hour looking around Studland without any success that evening.