CATTLE EGRET PAYS A VISIT @ FAIRBURN INGS
On Wednesday I decided to visit Fairburn Ings for the second week running as there had been reports of a rare Cattle Egret spotted amongst the reserve's Highland Cattle. There had also been a less rare Whinchat spotted from the Pick Up Hide in the last week. On the nearby reserve of St Aidans another rarity, a Caspian Tern, had been seen, but that would have to wait for another day.
It had been a fairly cloudy day but when I arrived at Fairburn Ings the sun had broken through the clouds and it turned into a sunny afternoon. Before I arrived at the visitor centre I stopped the car by the New Flash lake and had a look to see if the Cattle Egret was among the Highland Cattle on the far side of the lake. But alas after quarter of an hour the only thing I had seen was a trio of Goldfinches singing from their perch on the telegraph wires.
I then moved on to the visitor centre and after parking my car I made my way first to the Pick Up Hide and upon arrival the lagoon was populated by Mute Swans, Lapwings and Moorhens with Blue Tits, Great Tits and Chaffinches on the feeders. A pair of Juvenile Robins also paid a visit, they were halfway between their mottle brown juvenile colours and the full grey and red breasted adult colours.
I spent the next forty minutes waiting to see if the Whinchat would make an appearance. During this time a lone Greenfinch, Tree Sparrow and Collared Dove appeared. At several points during the forty minutes a pair of Wood Pigeons argued in the trees above flapping and whacking each other with wings. As the forty minutes was nearly up, I was about to give up and go and look for the Kingfisher when I spotted a bird perched on a wire fence about 100 yards away.
Sadly it was too far away to get a remotely decent picture, but there it was, a Whinchat a bird I had not seen before. After watching the Whinchat for a few minutes I decided to move onto the Kingfisher Screen. Reaching the Kingfisher Screen I did not hold out much hope of seeing the Kingfisher as the water was 90% covered in green algae. Also the volunteers were carrying out work to the paths on the Coal Tips Trail which meant all the vehicles taking material had to go past making a lot of noise. After 10 minutes I gave up and headed back to the visitor centre for an ice cream as by this stage it had got quite hot.
I checked at the visitor centre as to whether the Cattle Egret had been seen today and it had been seen on Spoonbill Flash which is located in front of the Lin Dike Hide. This would mean getting back in the car and moving down to the second car park at the entrance to the trail which leads to the Lin Dike Hide. Before returning to the car I went down to the pontoons overlooking the main lake as I have seen Whitethroats, Reed Warblers and Stonechats in the reeds down there as well as Avocets in the water in front of the pontoons. Sadly there were just Mute Swans, Black Headed Gulls and a plethora of female Mallards.
I returned to the car and made my way down to the Lin Dike car park with Goldfinches perched on the telegraph wires again. During my walk down to the hide I passed several fellow bird watchers who mentioned that the Cattle Egret was still visible from the hide although it was playing hide and seek behind some Canada & Greylag Geese. Once I had arrived at the hide I managed to locate the Cattle Egret about 150 to 200 yards from the hide.
It was impossible to see the whole bird because of the mass of geese sharing the island it was currently stood on. For the next 10 minutes it proceeded to preen itself whilst my view was blocked from time to time, but I did manage to get a couple of very distant pictures. Right in front of the hide were several Greylags, Black Headed Gulls and a single Little Egret which I managed to get some much better pictures of.
To the right of the hide a Kestrel came in to view and hovered over the marshland to the right of the hide and it was soon joined by a second Kestrel before they flew off to land behind the hide. A couple of minutes later the Cattle Egret took off and flew over to where the Highland Cattle were grazing and perched itself in a tree above them. The time was now approaching 4pm and as the skies had started to darken with the threat of an approaching thunder storm I decided to make my way back to the car and head home.
All in all it was a good afternoon as I added two birds I had not seen before to my list - the Cattle Egret and Whinchat. I have added my full sightings list and attached a few pictures as well.