Monday, 23 January 2012

Another Over-Wintering Stranger

So far this winter the weather has been remarkably mild. I can recall only one day where we have had snow and the number of frosts can be counted on the fingers of both hands. So it is perhaps not surprising that some birds have decided to over-winter here rather than use their energies flying south.

The Desert Wheatear that continues to be seen at Bempton Cliffs is probably an extreme example of this, but there have been others. There have been a number of Little Egrets hanging around East Yorkshire, and although only recently announced, a Cattle Egret – a smaller cousin – has been giving great views over the past four weeks or so.
I have been trying to see this bird for a while, but owing to poor weather or work commitments it hasn’t been possible until this week. On Friday I tried to locate it up the river beyond Bewholme Bridge and Hempholme, but other than finding a Short-Eared Owl hunting at 11am and surprising myself and a Snipe by nearly stepping on it, I had little success. Today was very different.

The bird had been reported visiting the Yorkshire Water compound at Tophill Low over the weekend, and that was exactly where I found it this morning. There was clearly plenty for it to eat, although I was not able to see what was on the menu. The Egret spent a great deal of time with its head down picking up morsels, which was apparently quite upsetting to the local Mistle Thrushes who I think were not enthralled to have an interloper helping itself on their territory.

The bird was disturbed a number of times by men in fluorescent orange jackets, and at first just moved to other areas of the compound where the frost had been dispersed by the weak sun. However, towards midday the Egret seemed to have had enough, and was last seen flying off in the direction of Easingwold Farm.

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