Little Blue Heron in Yorkshire?


Nick Morgan got in touch a couple of days ago. He has drawn attention to the appearance of a white heron sp. in photos, and actually, rightly so. The question surrounds photos taken in the Nosterfield area of North Yorkshire in late July 2011. The photographer, Brian Morland is a keen naturalist and unsurprisingly assumed he had photographed a Little Egret with standard lens, at close range, as it flew off. On seeing the photos Nick became really concerned (like, Little Blue Heron concerned!). I think he is right to be. As he noted I think it does appear to show what looks like some dark tips to some of the primaries (especially on the right wing). The bill also appears to be bicoloured (specifically dark tipped) and of certain shape that suggests Little Blue Heron. The legs also look mostly greenish, long etc. etc. hmmm…

Juvenile Little Egrets often show green legs and photos have an awful reputation for tricking us- especially when taken at odd angles. It’s hard to be sure on the dark tips on some photos, though not all white juvenile Little Blue Herons have obvious dark primary tips.

But the photos really bother me as they have done Nick. I can’t just eliminate Little Blue Heron, and it does kinda look like it has some feature of that species. But I feel disquieted and can’t get past equivocal. If it wasn’t so rare… Maybe we are being tricked by photo artifacts? Maybe we are not! If only there were better images!

There is another twist in the tail. The bird was seen and notes made on it by Steve Green visiting Nosterfield Nature Reserve. Seems it may have been there about a week in the company of a couple of Little Egrets. It was noted that it looked a little bigger and stockier (enough to be commented on) with relatively strong bill that also caused the observer to note that it recalled the bill of a Squacco Heron! So it’s getting scary, don’t you think? Juvenile in July? I really don’ know, but they are well-known for massive post breeding northerly dispersal of mostly white juveniles “many to points far outside breeding range” (Palmer 1962)… I guess someone really needs to see it again. It might not be far away.

3 photos of the bird below all  © Brian Morland (they go bigger if you click on ’em)

Nick also noted the significant influx of American birds to Norway and Iceland in July…

 …the natural first assumption: I photographed this greeny-legged juvenile Little Egret (below) at Beacon Ponds, Easington on Monday (1st August)


About Martin Garner

I am a Free Spirit
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7 Responses to Little Blue Heron in Yorkshire?

  1. Owen Foley says:

    I think the 3rd photo shows the wing tips clear enough, and I cant make out any genuine dark tips. I think there is some shadowing at play in the first two, as the bird flies into the light.

  2. julianhough says:

    Hi Martin….juv. Little Egrets can be a bugger can’t they….
    although they could be deceiving, my impression from the photos is that the wings look long and narrow and the tibia, although foreshortened, might be too long for Little Blue, which look somewhat disproportionately short-legged. Also, be curious to know if the contrasting yellowish soles are a pro-Little feature. I don’t get to see too many juv. Little Blue’s and will try and look at some this fall. Also, July would be early for a juv. Little Blue…I think!


  3. thedrunkbirder says:

    I’m with Owen there… hard as I try I’m not seeing Dark on the wing in that last photo – or the second if I’m honest. If you look at the first then it could also appear to have ‘dark tips’ to the secondaries on the right wing which sadly appears to be a trick of the light. I terms of the bill, again I can’t rule Little Egret out. There has been a build up in the Soar Valley this week with possibly some locally bred birds, I’m trying hard to prove breeding, and there seems just nothing too unusual… as Julian says – juv Little Egrets, total buggers.
    Nick is coming on the Conference Calls tonight so I might grill him a bit.


  4. Chatterbirds says:

    Not catching the dark tips to the wings either although the photo is still intriguing.

  5. peter garbutt says:

    i hope that this bird turns out to be a little blue heron and good luck to the person who found it,but why are these birds not reported straight away as an unusual looking heron that needs checking was the same with the rock bunting which was photographed at castle bolton in yorkshire,all that we had was a photo which had been taken not saying that they arent genuine,but to release the info as they are found to give other people the chance to check them out.

  6. Richard says:

    You might be interested in the controversy over the identity of a young Little Blue Heron (which looks like a Snowy Egret to me) at:

    Thoughts on the identity of this bird much appreciated.

  7. Alan says:

    Just seen identical bird in Gloucestershire – do they reside in UK now.

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