Long ago it was a very rare event to see Little Egrets in the UK. But increasingly they are becoming commonplace and their numbers have increased dramatically in recent years. So it was no surprise as I jogged along Cherry Hinton Brook to find several of them hunting for fish near Cherry Hinton Hall. They are remarkably tame as well and will let you photograph them, as long as you don’t get too close.
Their numbers have been steadily increasing in France and they made the leap across the channel to breed in Dorset for the first time in 1996. By the start of the new Millennium they had reached 100 breeding pairs in this country and went on increasing in numbers. Now there are over 1,000 pairs. Initially birds visiting this country returned to France for the winter, but now they have become resident and can be seen throughout the year. The fact that they have colonised the city and are almost urban birds is rather surprising, but an exotic addition to our local fauna.
Their white plumage is not exactly what one would consider good camouflage for a hunting bird. But when you realise that the fish they are hiding from are looking up at the bright sky, white plumage is the perfect disguise. Their black legs are curiously ended with bright yellow feet. Does this give them some sort of advantage? Perhaps its handy to be able to see your feet in the murky water when wading.
Eventually they got fed up with me stalking them along the stream and took to their wings and flew away majestically.
Duncan Mackay 13/2/2018