Chicks cause a flutter at Northumberland reserve

Little egret chicks. Picture by Iain Robson

Little egret chicks. Picture by Iain Robson

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A pair of little egrets have successfully reared two chicks on a Northumberland nature reserve – the first record of this graceful heron species breeding in the county.

The pair nested at Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s Druridge Pools Reserve this summer and the two young egrets fledged from the nest towards the end of last week.

Little egret chicks. Picture by Iain Robson

Little egret chicks. Picture by Iain Robson

The little egret has colonised the United Kingdom from France as it naturally extended its breeding range. It first appeared in the UK in significant numbers in 1989, and first bred in Dorset in 1996. There are now about 700 nesting pairs across the country.

Steve Lowe, head of conservation at the wildlife charity said: “Little egrets are increasingly being seen on ponds and riverbanks in Northumberland, but this is the first time they have been known to breed in the county, so needless to say, Trust staff are delighted that the birds chose one of our reserves to raise their brood.”

The birds were discovered by local birdwatcher and Druridge Diary blogger, Iain Robson, who visits the Druridge Bay reserve most days.

Iain said: “My attention was drawn to the regular use of the wet grasslands at Druridge Pools by adult little egrets and, knowing that they breed later in the year than the resident grey herons, I decided to check the nearby heronry and found a nest containing two egret chicks.

“I monitored the progress of the chicks until they fledged and with colleagues, fitted one of the chicks with a metal ring as part of the BTO’s national bird-ringing scheme. After fledging from the heronry, both birds were seen feeding on the reserve.”

Steve added: “Evidence from elsewhere in the UK shows that once established as a breeding species, little egrets can rapidly expand their population, so hopefully we will be seeing more of these exotic-looking birds on our reserves in future years.”