I suspect that yesterday was the best day that I will have in my “big birding year”. Glancing over the balcony whilst busy doing household chores I noted a group of Little Egrets on the river island. We see egrets virtually every day but out of habit I picked up the binoculars to take a closer look. And what a surprise I had! Behind the egrets was a big black bird! What on earth was it? I knew immediately that this was something unusual! The duster was cast aside, I threw some jeans on ( I was still in my PJ’s!!) grabbed the camera and batteries that had been on charge and legged it outside stuffing the batteries into the camera.
I got down to the river bank and got a good look at the bird through binoculars. It was entirely black, had a dark, long beak and appeared to be a bit bigger than the egrets. I had never seen anything like it and I did wonder whether it may be a juvenile black stork – even though it looked too small for that. I swapped the bins for the camera and just as I was about to take a photograph – the batteries fell out! I hadn’t clipped the cover properly into place! Arrgh! I scrabbled about to find them and got them back in. A close one! I just managed to get a couple of photographs (albeit not very good ones) before the bird flew off downriver.
Back in the house, I downloaded the pics and got out Collins. The kinked neck as it flew off definitely ruled out Stork. The only other thing it looked like was a Reef Egret – but they live in Africa – I’m in North East Spain! I was well and truly flummoxed!
Via Facebook I sent the pics to a couple of Pro Birders. The suggestions I got back were: a) Dark morph Little Egret b) Reef Egret c) Reef x Little Egret hybrid. It was also recommended that I report the sighting to Rare Birds in Spain. Me -the learner birder! With a possible rare sighting! So I sent the pics off and this morning I had an email back from Ricard Gutiérrez saying he was 100% certain that the bird was Western Reef x Little Egret Hybrid. Apparently, there are a number of these at various locations around Spain including a regular visitor to the Tancada Lagoon at the Ebro Delta. Nevertheless, Ricard said that as far as he is aware there is not a record of one so far inland. He asked if he could pass the info/photos on to the Spanish Rarities Committee to get it accepted and recorded in the 2011 Rare Birds in Spain report.
Erm – I think that’s a Yes then! ….. Rare Bird Spain Report
I haven’t stopped smiling yet!