What are the chances?

In June 2011 Reserve Manager Tim Appleton and I took a walk into the Burley Fishponds to look for signs that Little Egrets might be breeding in this area – this would be the first ever recorded breeding for the county. We carefully surveyed the area, trying not to disturb any of the Cormorants or Herons that also nest within the fishponds and doing our best not to disappear up to our necks in the soft silt that has built up over the years!

After a while I came across a small number of Little Egrets close to some platforms of sticks in the Willow trees- and there sat a small chick on the nest! This was the first confirmed breeding of this species in the county of Rutland – an amazing moment!

In anticipation I had brought my ringing kit along. I quickly ascended the tree and grasped the chick although it did try to give us the slip by beginning to climb away at a fairly fast pace. However not too fast for me, so I carried it down to the ground where we promptly fitted the bird with a standard British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) metal size ‘G’ ring. Once the ring was fitted I placed the chick back on to the nest and covered the bird over with a cloth to keep it calm. Once I was sure the bird was settled I removed the cloth and climbed down the tree.

First Little Egret ringed in Rutland in 2011.

First Little Egret ringed in Rutland in 2011.

Ever since that day I have always looked closely at the Little Egrets on the reserve to see if there was one with a ring of metal around its leg, but I never did see the bird again. Realistically, the chances of ever getting a recovery of the first and only ringed Little Egret at Rutland Water were pretty slim, however…

We recently received a number of ringing recoveries and to my surprise a Little Egret was on the report. I assumed that this must be a colour-ringed bird that has been seen at Rutland from elsewhere but amazingly it turned out that the chick we ringed back in 2011 had been found, unfortunately dead, on the shoreline at O Grove, Pontevedra, SPAIN on the 20th November 2013. An amazing movement as I thought that most British Little Egrets were fairly sedimentary.

A total of 891days after ringing, this Little Egret had covered a distance of 1285km direction 209deg (SSW). This is only the eleventh ever recovery of a British-ringed Little Egret abroad and the third found in Spain.

What an amazing story considering it was the only Little Egret chick we have ever ringed!

Little Egret