2015 review: January - March; Egret nation

Striking a pose - a River Hogsmill Little Egret
The first three months of this year were all about thrashing the local patches. I'd set up this ridiculous notion of an 'Inner Uber patch', a scaled down version of my - well - larger Uber patch. Infantile, I know, but there you go, you can never fully remove the child from the man (or something like that). I had also gone into friendly competition with fellow-blogger Stewart Sexton, he who lives up North where they get things like Barred Warblers in the back garden. Rather than get into the car to cover these areas I largely walked. My fitness levels have rarely been better (although a mild dose of shingles in early January curtailed my efforts for a while). The most frequent sites visited were the River Hogsmill at Ewell (where a couple of showy Little Egrets and a Water Rail were wintering), Priest Hill, Ewell (which harboured up to six Stonechats), Canons Farm, Epsom and Walton Downs, Walton Heath, Colley Hill and Mogador. The birding was largely hard work and, at times, disappointing. But as the winter slowly became early spring, hopes too blossomed.

One of the two tame Cattle Egrets that frequented farmland close to Lydd, near Dungeness
In mid-February I escaped to Dungeness for the first of a number of shingle sojourns. As to be expected, the birdlife was varied and profuse. The star turns included two very tame Cattle Egrets that could be reliably found stalking the grassy fields at Dengemarsh, but the celebration of all things egret didn't stop there. A roost had been discovered on the RSPB reserve and I spent a few evenings as the light faded watching a surreal procession of egrets coming into roost - pure white in the dusking skies. Apart from the Cattles, 11 (yes, eleven!) Great White Egrets and 20+ Littles came in. It isn't that many years ago that such a gathering on UK soil would have been impossible. How times have changed.

As we entered March, moths were notable by their virtual absence. The MV went out, but the returns were poor - very poor. Butterflies were also thin on the ground. I plodded on. My walks took place in more clement weather and the botanical rewards were increasing. Winter may have fizzled out, but the wildlife was not exactly full of the joys of spring...


Derek Faulkner said…
Much better things were to come, if I remember rightly.
Steve Gale said…
Oh yes Derek, a wonderful local summer...
Derek Faulkner said…
So I recall, with those beautiful wild flower meadows - there is life besides birds.

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