Cattle Egrets incoming to Yorkshire

I will have seen my first Cattle Egret somewhere in Spain, probably in the mid 1980s, where flocks of 100s feeding around the feet of lifestock were not uncommon. It didn't register at the time, of course it didn't, those were pre climate change times, but as the decades have rolled on and global temperatures have risen, the large wetland areas of Southern Europe slowly began to dry out, not visibly so to the casual visitor to say Donana in Southern Spain, but enough to start alarm bells ringing in a bird's brain, especially a wetland bird that likes to nest and feed close to water. Little wonder these birds navigated North to the UK for a bit of wet relief!

In 2008, after a major increase of sightings in the UK, they bred successfully in Somerset and have done ever since with about 70 breeding pairs now established across various wetland sites in Southern England. I was well chuffed to tick this species off on a visit to the Somerset Levels a few years back and then see one back here in Yorkshire at North Cave Wetlands. That was back in 2020 and not seen one since until a few days ago; would have loved to get another Yorkshire record but was happy enough to see not just one but 7 just across the border in the Idle Valley, North Notts. 

Cattle Egret, Idle Valley  Cattle Egret, Idle Valley

Cattle Egrets haven't managed to colonise this far North as a breeding bird but as with their close relatives Little Egrets surely it's only a matter of time. To see a flock of these birds a mere 10 miles outside the Yorkshire border doing what I've seen them doing around the Mediterranean region for decades was almost surreal, but I guess the same can be said about Spoonbills nesting at Fairburn Ings, Black Winged Stilts doing the same at Potteric Carr and Glossy Ibis (albeit not breeding) wandering around in the refuge area at Wheldrake Ings - who would have thought these things back in the 1980s! Not complaining!

Further Information

Idle Valley - reserve information

Cattle Egrets in the UK - BTO






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