Obligatory egrets

We were free for a few hours after lunch today and Brenda wanted to have a walk at Cley marshes, so I suggested we do a short detour to Glandford where the obliging long-eared owl that I saw on 13th had returned after a short absence. Brenda hadn’t seen it up until today, so this was a good opportunity for her to add it to her bird list for the year.

We then spent some time in the various hides at Cley, with a good variety of waders and ducks, including views of lapwing, teal, snipe and black-tailed godwit. For me the lapwing is always a memory of my early interest in birds: They are distinctive birds and so perhaps it’s not surprising that they were one of the first species I became very familiar with outside the line-up of usual urban garden suspects. It’s been good to see so many of them wintering around the north Norfolk coast.


Pretty well the last bird we added to our list for today, but one which we see most times we venture out, was a little egret. With climate change come changes to bird populations, and one of the most obvious here in the UK is the huge increase in certain large wading birds which, until relatively recently, were rare here and mostly seen in the warmer climate of southern Europe: little egret, great egret, cattle egret, spoonbill and even glossy ibis are now on the increase here, and the trend seems set to continue. Lovely for birdwatchers in the UK, but also indicative of trends which are of serious concern of course.

the beach at Cley today (photo by Brenda)

A few years ago, when little egrets were becoming very common in many parts of the UK – they were the first egrets to colonise here in large numbers – Brenda and I started seeing them very regularly and one of us – I can’t remember who – gave them a nickname which has stuck, and which we still use. Any birdwatcher overhearing a typical conversation would wonder what on earth we were talking about:

Steve: “Haven’t seen any Obligatories so far today.” Brenda: “Oh look, one’s just flown in over there – I knew there had to be an Obligatory around here somewhere!”. Of course I then add the species to my list for the day which – me being me – is on an app, so it’s already down on the full UK list as little egret. I’ve never actually asked Brenda – who uses a pen and a notebook to make her wildlife lists – whether she writes down little egret or Obligatory. I rather hope it’s the latter…..hang on, let me ask her…..”these days I write down little egret, but for a long time I did write Obligatory.”

a little egret showing one of its distinctive yellow feet (photo taken in 2015)

No new species for January 30th.

Birds = 112
Moths = 2
Wildflowers = 11