Wednesday 21 October 2015

H is for Little Egret

. . . & all is not black and white

Hemel (BMT): It is bizarre but it seems that only Little Egrets ringed with the letter “H” turn up in HhhhhhHemel HhhhhhHempstead. And, I first find them on days when the sky is thick with cloud and the light is flat and all is gloom. Perhaps they decide I'm in need of novelty to compensate for days like that. Yesterday was the arrival of bird number 3. Colour-rings LAON(H); RAYN(C). BTO ring GR24066.

Video still showing colour rings LAON(H); RAYN(C), 20 Oct 2015

The bird was ringed as a juvenile (age code 3 i.e. hatched earlier that year) at Lemsford Springs on 2 September 2014. It hung around Lemsford for a while before heading NW to Leagrave Marsh in Luton in February, and then, in May, was spotted at Trimley Marshes in Suffolk! A month later, it was back in Bedfordshire, at East Hyde, before finally taking it’s little orange “H” to Hemel Hempstead.

It’s no Red-flanked Bluetail or Hume’s Leaf Warbler but these ringed birds add a little interest to my walks along the River Bulbourne. I enjoy the simple satisfaction of spotting them, getting close enough to read the rings and adding to the growing picture for each individual. However, it’s not always straightforward. There is a quirk to the colour-rings.

In the photo above, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Little Egret’s left leg has an orange colour-ring with a white “9”. Actually, both the “H” and the “9” are written in black. It’s not a photographic/digital artifact either. In the field, even when the bird is walking or shifting position, the letter/number can consistently appear pure white to the naked eye. I spent a few head-scratching sessions with this bird, wondering what were the chances of a second individual, turning up at the same site, with the exact same letter/number combination, but written in white rather than black. The mystery was solved when I saw that “both” birds had their right hind-toe caught in the metal BTO ring i.e. it was the same individual. This must have happened soon after ringing. It looks mighty uncomfortable but the bird seems to be absolutely fine.

Video stills showing the black "9" appearing white, and the single caught hind-toe

The obvious Siskin passage continues, with another handful of birds flying SW over the river yesterday. It looks like the rest of this week is more gloom and drizzle, so, who knows, perhaps another ringed Little Egret will pop in.

Many thanks to ringing scheme co-ordinator, Barry Trevis, for the details and background on these Little Egrets.

The River Bulbourne is currently hosting:
LAON(9); RAYN(H). BTO ring GR24085, first spotted 03/09/2015 (caught toe)
LAON(H); RAYN(F). BTO ring GR24083, first spotted 04/09/2015
LAON(H); RAYN(C). BTO ring GR24066, first spotted 20/10/2015
The blog post relating to the birds first spotted in September can be found HERE.


  1. Replies
    1. Great description, Si. You're right - I'm glad to have them around.

  2. Good work as ever Lucy! Poor light may actually be a bonus when photographing these - I find avoiding overexposure in sunshine almost impossible. We have had up to 6 of these fishing at ML recently as the water levels are so low.

    1. Hi Martin, thank you. Yes, you're right about the exposure on the egrets, lol. Interesting to hear water levels are low at ML. The same is true up at Tring reservoirs - all now have exposed mud, even Tringford. Wilstone is extremely low at the moment.


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