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Possible Plumed (Intermediate) Egret at Whanganui [probably Cattle Egret]

Posted: Fri Aug 10, 2018 8:46 am
by Peter Frost
I received a report yesterday from Lynne Douglas, one of our local bird-finding stalwarts, about a 'white heron' that she had just found behind Castlecliff in Whanganui. She sent me photographs overnight and the bird looks like a Plumed (Intermediate) Egret. The location is in paddocks just outside the suburb of Castlecliff on Manuka Street extension (-39.93356° 174.98814°).

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Plumed egret: note that the gape flange stops just below the eye (photo: © Lynne Douglas)
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Plumed egret in flight: note the dark legs and feet (photo: © Lynne Douglas)
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Plumed egret: although not particularly clear, this seems to show pale upper legs (photo: © Lynne Douglas)
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The only other possibility is cattle egret but from Lynne's description of its size (she was comparing it with a nearby white-face heron) and the photos she sent, Plumed Egret seems more likely. I'm sure that others will go out today to see if it is still there and to check this provisional identification.

Peter Frost

Re: Possible Plumed (Intermediate) Egret at Whanganui

Posted: Fri Aug 10, 2018 8:55 am
by Ian McLean
Thanks Peter for the report & the excellent photos from Lynne Douglas.
When an Intermediate Egret was seen at Waitarua Reserve in Remuera, Auckland in 2006 one of the best indicators was the bird's size. The Intermediate Egret was exactly the same size as a White Faced Heron & there was fortunately always one of them nearby for a comparison !
Cheers
Ian

Re: Possible Plumed (Intermediate) Egret at Whanganui

Posted: Fri Aug 10, 2018 9:10 am
by Davidthomas
Looks pretty good for a plumed egret to my eyes Peter! Well done Lynne and thanks for getting the word out so quickly.

Re: Possible Plumed (Intermediate) Egret at Whanganui

Posted: Fri Aug 10, 2018 9:45 am
by Peter Frost
To be honest, I'm still not sure. As you say, a lot depends on size. The more I look at the photographs that Lynne has sent (including another lot sent just now), the more I'm inclined towards cattle egret, because the neck just doesn't look long enough to me. Here is a photograph of the bird with two paradise ducks in the foreground.

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Size comparison of size between egret and 2 paradise duck; even allowing for the telescopic effect foreshortening the background, the bird looks to be too small for a plumed egret (photo: © Lynne Douglas)
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Paul Gibson looked for the bird yesterday evening and this morning, and didn't manage to find it. It --- whatever 'it' is --- may have moved on. Paul's seen the same photos that Lynne sent me and he feels that it is a plumed egret, but I'm not so sure now. I know plumed egrets from Africa, but that is now around 15 years ago. There is something that just doesn't look quite right to me. For one, all the photos show the bird with a hunched posture, typical of cattle egret (except the one of the bird landing).

So, hold your horses until we have more information on where the bird is now (if possible). In the meantime, as Paul mentioned to me, with the big drought in Australia, an event that seems to trigger an upsurge in sightings of Australian waterbirds here, it may be worthwhile looking at all bodies of water for anything unusual, white or not, big or small. Watch this space...

Peter

Re: Possible Plumed (Intermediate) Egret at Whanganui

Posted: Fri Aug 10, 2018 9:50 am
by Davidthomas
Yeah I’ve just been chatting with others and the more we look at it closely the more it looks like a cattle.

Certainly based on that last photo I’d say it’s nowhere near big enough for an intermediate. So I’ll retract my earlier comment and suggest Cattle is probably correct.

Re: Possible Plumed (Intermediate) Egret at Whanganui [probably Cattle Egret]

Posted: Sat Aug 11, 2018 7:42 pm
by AlanShaw
Yes, I'd say Cattle Egret based on the long "jowl" shown particularly well in the "pale upper legs" photo.

Re: Possible Plumed (Intermediate) Egret at Whanganui [probably Cattle Egret]

Posted: Sat Aug 11, 2018 10:04 pm
by Peter Frost
I managed to speak to Lynne Douglas in the field on Friday (we were both out looking for the bird). After some discussion, I'm convinced that the bird was a Cattle Egret. Lynne agrees as she confirmed that the bird was smaller than a White-faced Heron, one of which was close by. Moreover, as noted by Alan, the jowl of feathers below the bill is quite characteristic of Cattle Egret. Whatever the case, the bird has moved on.

My apologies for getting some hearts beating, and at least one person getting ready to drive down to see/look for the bird. As I explained to him, when I saw the first few photos, I was still thinking of a relatively large bird (Lynne had originally phoned to say she though she had a White Heron in her sights) but the moment I saw the photograph of the head, it was obviously not a White Heron (gape too short), and my mind went immediately to Plumed/Intermediate Egret. I decided to post the sighting, given that the weekend was approaching and people might want to travel to see the bird before it went off somewhere else. If it was what I thought it might be at the time, I didn't want to be thought to be holding back the sighting until too late for others to see it.

Incidentally, there were 10 Cattle Egret this afternoon at Farm 44010 on the Whangaehu Beach Rd. This is a site to which small numbers of Cattle Egrets have returned every year since at least the late 1980s.

Peter

Re: Possible Plumed (Intermediate) Egret at Whanganui [probably Cattle Egret]

Posted: Mon Aug 13, 2018 1:30 pm
by Neil Fitzgerald
I don't think you need to apologize for anything! Like you say, better to get info out as "possible" than not at all.

Re: Possible Plumed (Intermediate) Egret at Whanganui [probably Cattle Egret]

Posted: Mon Aug 13, 2018 3:27 pm
by Jan
Just looking at the photos, it is a Cattle Egret for sure. They have an almost magenta beak in breeding plumage, though this one isn't in BP, it has a deep orange beak. The head and neck together in a Plumed Egret equal the length of the body and this isn't true of this bird.