When I saw the heronry of Cattle Egrets I completely forgot to take a photograph of them all, last Friday I more than made up for it when we saw these Little Egrets (Garça-branca-pequena in Portuguese) it was all I could do. This congregation was wonderful to observe, squawking away.
They are a sociable bird, well apart from when they directly intrude on another’s feeding spot. This was obviously a great feeding spot on Friday. They won’t have been eating their usual diet of fish as they were in a saltpan, but by the looks of it they were finding multiple insects, crustaceans, worms and/or molluscs.
As you can see from these photographs they are not that big, their bodies about the same size as a gull. They have quite long legs but not as long as a stilt. The easiest way to identify a Little Egret is by their heron like behaviour, black beaks and yellow feet. Although having said that their feet are usually either in water or covered in mud!
There is a much larger Egret in mainland Portugal. It is less common than the Little Egrets, as it only winters here and was a rarity in Portugal until the mid 1990s. It is the Great Egret (Garça-branca-grande); standing up to 1 m (3.3 ft) tall, with a wingspan of 131 to 170 cm (52 to 67 in). On Friday (after more than 5 Algarvian winters) we saw our very first one. My pictures are not brilliant as it was some distance away, but there was no mistaking it thanks to its yellow beak and size.
The Great Egret was not the only excitement last Friday. It was also a good day for birding collective nouns since as well as our Congregation of Egrets we also saw a cutlery of spoonbills, a mustering of storks, a prayer of godwits, a colony of stilts, an orchestra of avocets, both a swim and flight of cormorants and if you look very carefully in the photograph below a flamboyance of flamingos!