17 Jul 2018

17 Jul 18 - A Studland Patch First

On 16 Jul 18 I decided to pop down to Littlesea on my Studland patch for the first Little Egret roost count of the Autumn. Part of the hope was that I would also find a Great White Egret as there has been one, & occasionally two, Great White Egrets regularly around the Studland patch in the Autumn & Winter since one appeared in Sep 2014. It was a fairly quiet night with 42 Little Egrets in the roost & most were in before I arrived. At 21:30, I decided it didn't look likely that a Great White Egret would appear & so I packed up to leave. As I was walking off, I spotted another Heron coming into the roost. I stopped to check it, although I knew it would be a Grey Heron, but it looked like a Purple Heron. I only had a short view in the failing light, but enough to be happy with the identification, but not to be able to write a description on that view. It landed in the trees, but out of sight. I quickly walked back up the hill to my viewing point & fortunately, it was still there, but not close. The tripod was unpacked & bingo, it was a Purple Heron. At this point, it flew & I lost it, due as it flew behind a tree I was standing next too. I quickly returned to the high hide as that had a much clearer viewing position. I carried on scanning whilst phoning local Poole Harbour Birders. Realistically, only one had much of a chance to get there before dark from his home, but it was academic as he didn't answer his phone. Still the news was out locally so people had the chance of a pre-work visit the following morning. While I was on the phone to Paul Morton, from the Birds of Poole Harbour team, it flew back towards the roost. I cut the call to get more views as it circled the roost a few times before disappearing into the Southern most bay in Littlesea. I stayed till last light, but I had no more sightings. This was a third record for the Poole Harbour area & a Studland first.
Black-tailed Skimmer: Female
The following morning I spent a couple of hours looking around the Studland area checking South Haven, Littlesea & Brands Bay, but I drew a blank. I didn't check all the possible places as I skipped the Eastern Lake. Too close to the nudists beach to want to carry bins & a decent camera at this time of year. Annoying, as this is the most likely place it would be feeding in, if it was still around. Paul has already had the same result at Littlesea earlier in the morning. I assumed it had probably moved through. But to be sure I decided to pop down to check the roost for a second night. I arrived earlier & there were only a few Little Egrets in the roost. Checking them, one was tucked well in & only showing small parts of its bill at any time. A pale-yellow bill & looked far too thick-based to be a Little Egret. But it really was a struggle to see it clearly. At this point, Graham Armstrong arrived & I tried getting Graham onto it. Before he saw it, it had flown deeper into the trees & was only showing parts of its back. Fortunately, it flew again & sat in the open. Clearly, a juvenile Cattle Egret. This is only the fifth Studland record. I was happy as this was the second good Heron on the patch in 24 hours. The obvious question is, where is this Cattle Egret feeding during the day?
Cattle Egret (with a Little Egret to its right): Only the fifth Studland patch record
We were just admiring the Cattle Egret through our scopes, when the Purple Heron flew in. It circled briefly before landing in the treetops. Frustratingly, I hadn't set the camera up that evening & so all the flight photos were blurred as the camera was still set up from the morning.
Purple Heron: Juvenile. Surprisingly, this photo wasn't too bad given the poor camera settings
I bumped the ISO setting up (probably too high), but at least I would get something it the Purple Heron flew around again.
Purple Heron: Juvenile. It sat in the tree tops for around ten minutes while I was ringing locals as there was enough light to allow people to belt down if they wanted
Purple Heron: Juvenile. After ten minutes it flew again & dropped out of sight into the marsh in Littlesea
Purple Heron: Juvenile
Purple Heron: Juvenile. It stayed hidden out of view in the marsh, until it finally flew into the roost at 21:32 (the same time as the previous evening)
If anybody is looking for it this evening, please only view from the high hide. This can be reached by parking on the road at the entrance to Greenlands Farm. Cross the road & walk East up the obvious path up the small hillside. Follow this through a gully to the hide. It's best to stand in front of the hide, rather than look from this old hide. Please do not try getting closer to the Little Egrets as you are likely to disturb the roost & due to trees, you are unlikely to get a decent view anyway. Also keep off the heaths as there there are nearby Nightjar territories. Any time after 20:00 would be worth a look. But we still don't know where it is spending its time during the day, so there is a chance of seeing it during the day.