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Cattle Egret, a First for Arran

On Monday 8 August 2011, Mairi Christie from Kildonan photographed a white egret in Clauchlands. On Thursday 29 September 2022, I gave a presentation on “Arran’s Bird Life” to the Arran branch of U3A in Brodick Hall. Mairi was at that presentation and spoke with me.

A few days later Mairi sent some images of birds to me. The one attached, taken eleven years ago, was labelled a Little Egret. On realising it was a Cattle Egret I shared it with Val Wilson, assistant bird recorder for the Clyde area. Cattle Egret is a rare bird in Scotland and there have been no Arran records.

Val felt that this record, like all records of rarities, should be retrospectively assessed by Scottish Birds Rarities Committee (SBRC). To go with the photographic evidence, Val encouraged Mairi to write a little in an email about the circumstances of her photograph.

I thought the bird was a little egret when I spotted it and it was a thrill to see.

The photograph of the bird was taken on 8/08/2011 – a jpeg, in Lamlash just past the Brodick road towards Clauchlands. It was feeding on the grass foreshore with about 20 oyster catchers. I spotted the white amongst the dark oyster catchers and quietly got out of the car. The oyster catchers all flew away as a car passed and so I could not get the shot with the others. It was a little slower in taking off, but I got only one shot. My husband saw it from the car. I remember it clearly. I was helping a friend, a keen photographer, who could no longer walk or talk due to a severe stroke.  I made him a calendar every year and tried to include favourite places and wild life as well as some fun or unusual shots. The egret represented August in one of those. It was then seen and discussed by many local people who visited, but no one knew that it was a cattle egret. One gentleman assured me it was an albino heron!!

This was submitted in the appropriate form to SBRC in October 2022. Checking on SBRC records, it was noted that there were two records accepted of Cattle Egret in the autumn of 2011, both from the west coast of Scotland, a single bird on Mull on 27 October 2011 and a single bird on Tiree from 17 to 25 November 2011. All the same bird?

The first Scottish record I can find of Cattle Egret was in 1979 at the Loch of Kinnordy in Angus from 10 to 18 May. There have only been around twenty Scottish records and this one, now confirmed by SBRC in December 2022 more than eleven years after it was photographed, is a first for Arran as well as being the only one for Arran. Although Cattle Egret is rare in Scotland, it is now occurring annually. In 2022 there was an exceptional flock of eleven in Ayrshire.
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