I did the usual early check of the beach this morning. The gull numbers were disappointing but another juvenile mediterranean gull was present along with two adults. Offshore there were 70+ sandwich tern, 1 common tern and my first little tern for a while. A common sandpiper on Maer Rocks was noteworthy as was a kingfisher. I think I've only ever had one on the rocks here before. Maer rocks sits conveniently on the boundary of my Orcombe 'patch' (Have a look at the tab at the top of this page if you want to see the area I include). With little else around I decided to walk out along the slippery, seaweed-covered jetty (see above) to try for a photograph of the common sand. I made my way gingerly out towards the end and glanced up to see a bird circling just offshore. Initially I assumed it was a gull but I soon realised that something wasn't right. As soon as I got it in the bins I could see it was a great white egret! It flapped lazily overhead, did a loop, as if contemplating landing on the rocks, and then headed back out to sea. It soon changed course for the Warren so I made a couple calls but to no avail. As it approached the Warren it switched direction again and powered off over Exmouth town.
great white egret - my first shot as it flew in
This is my first and long-awaited 'self-found' great white. In fact I've only actually seen a couple before in Devon. The first was a colour-ringed bird in Powderham Park on August 31st 2003 and the second was on Exminster marshes on April 12th 2006. It's a bird I always assumed I'd bump into at some point. I came close to finding the Exminster bird but was 'pipped to the post' by Lee Lock. We were stood having a chat, on the canal bank beside the fisherman's car park, when Lee casually said "have a look at that" as a long white neck appeared out of a reed-filled ditch towards the back of the marsh. It was a great white that soon took off and landed in the pool beside the railway bridge. It then headed off over Exminster village as the first birders started to arrive.