Lincolnshire little egrets

Thu, 07/01/2010 - 11:06
Submitted by Andrew Beaven

 Imagine the cleanest, brightest, most brilliant shade of white. Now scrub it and buff it and make it cleaner and brighter still. That’s the colour of the little egrets who became the surprising wildlife highlight of my recent, festive, trip to the Lincolnshire Fens.

Every day we’d see them - sometimes standing stock-still on the canal bank waiting for fish, sometimes flying fast and low across the fields.
Every time, I was struck by their pristine plumage - whiter in the gleaming winter sun even than the layer of new-fallen snow.
Such beautiful birds with their long black legs and long slender bills - and such welcome new-comers. You see, even as recently as the 1980s, little egrets were rare visitors to Britain and had never been known to breed here.
But due to the trend for milder winters (hard to believe given the current Arctic conditions), these smaller cousins of the grey heron have moved in from Europe and are now becoming more and more common across a growing expanse of southern and eastern England.
Certainly, they’re a very recent addition to the landscape in the area where my mum and dad live - that flat yet far-from-featureless country that stretches from the rolling Wolds to the sea.
During a single morning spent walking the dogs in a six-mile circuit, we passed a tiny church dating back to the 12th century, uniquely dedicated to the Saxon Saint Adelwold; we walked beside the Louth Navigation Canal, a picturesque reminder of the Industrial Revolution; and we ducked beneath the whirring blades of the wind farm at Conisholme - which made national news last year when one of the turbines was mysteriously mangled, allegedly the work of a UFO.
En route, we spotted a brace of hare and three barrel-bodied roe deer - plus partridge, cormorants, and of course the whiter-than-white feathers of our favourite little egrets.
There were also some other birds worthy of note during my Christmas break in Lincolnshire. The turkey, of course, gets a mention (thanks, mum, for all the delicious food); and also the fantails, which are not only a type of pigeon, but are also the cause of my dad winning a game of Scrabble by spelling the word across not one but two triple-word-score squares. 158 points in a single go!
So Happy New Year to all Countryfile viewers and readers. I hope you get to spend as much time as possible in 2010 enjoying our varied and wonderful countryside. Here’s to some Great Days Out!
More about BBC Worldwide.