Great White Egrets – upstairs and downstairs
I went on a regular shopping trip to buy fresh tofu from a Chinese supermarket in Gloucester, which they only get deliveries of twice a week. As the sun was shining, although the temperature wasn't very warm, I decided to go to see of I could spot a kingfisher near one of the canal bridges on the edge of the suburbs near Quedgley. But when I started to walk along the canal bank I knew I wouldn't see one there today.
So I returned to the car and pottered along some back lanes towards the River Severn through Elmore and Saul. As I drove beside the river I could see the wind was creating small crested waves as the tide ran upstream. This was another indicator that the local bird life wasn't likely to be present.
The next best place to go was to Frampton Court lake and in the back of my mind I thought I might be able to see the Great White Egrets which have recently been spotted there quite regularly, according to a bird sightings journal for Gloucestershire.
Once I'd parked and walked to the lake I knew this was the best thing to have done and immediately relaxed. It was quiet with only a couple of walkers there at any one time. On the lake I counted more than fifty swans and many other bird species including a couple of geese, though fewer than normal, and about half a dozen cormorants resting on low perches or flying around in circles over the lake. Coots and gulls, pigeons and terns all made a noise and swam or flew around the lake. Some ducks flew about in mass formations and large groups of water fowl I didn't recognise all flew in tight circling banking manoeuvres.
But best of all were the Great White Egrets. I think I saw three of them in all, but only two at a time. They were mostly standing in the shallow waters on the far side of the lake from my position, which meant I could only get rather distant photos. Sometimes they waded about, and then stood stock still for another period of time. On odd occasions they flew a few yards just above the lake but only to move their feeding positions. According to the RSPB website there are estimated to be only thirty-five of these egrets resident in the UK over winter. Obviously in other parts of the world they are commonplace, but they are still a rare sight hereabouts.
They are of the heron family and hunt in similar ways. A grey heron flew across the lake close to me and perched high in a willow tree which had its trunk rooted in the water at the lake's edge.
As I was leaving by walking around the lake towards the road, I spotted two of the egrets perched in this dead tree on the edge of one of the islands. I stopped and set up my monopod to see what might happen, which in fact turned out to be very little at all. That is until they suddenly started jumping about on their respective branches. They were too far away for me to see them clearly through the viewfinder, but now I can see they were either doing mating rituals or getting rather hot and bothered with each other and using threatening behaviour with their long necks and beaks. It reminded me of a shouting match between upstairs and downstairs. It soon passed over and quiet returned as they stood on their perches and I made my way home.
Fried tofu marinaded in 'dark' soy sauce and fried with garlic, lemon grass and ginger has been on the supper menu since then. It is one of my favourite things.
- Canon EOS 5D Mark III