Thursday, 5 April 2018

Intermediate Egrets

This is almost risible now! After two days of dry weather and no migrants in woodlots, I was almost forced to spend all day Thursday at Ding Shan after Intermediate Egrets Mesophoyx intermedia in order to 'complete the set' as it were. Not that I'm not enjoying looking at these birds (the egrets); in truth they are a 'set' that has just existed 'in the background' for a long time for me, as after ticking them all in my first week here I have since paid them little attention. Intermediate Egret is actually quite a nice one, being much more subtle than its congeners. 'High-breeding' plumage is rather unremarkable, with the yellow bill turning black and the eye a reddish-pink. The scapular plumes do get exceptionally long, though, exceeding even the toes in length in flight.

I only came across the one bird close to high-breeding plumage Thursday; other adults were still in the process of acquiring breeding plumage, but retained some or all of yellow irides, yellow in the bill, and shortish/'blunter-looking' scapular plumes.


As most showed at least some traces of summer plumage, those that lacked scapular plumes I took to be first-summers (though they could also just be 'retarded' in some way).

Although by no means rare, Intermediate Egret requires a bit more effort to find. They prefer lush, verdant areas, and unlike other egrets tend not (at least here) to congregate anywhere in large numbers. I encountered most singly on Thursday, all in vegetated areas, and found them much more wary and difficult to approach than the other species I have recently been looking at. Although sometimes regarded as tricky to separate from Great Egret Ardea alba, in breeding plumage they actually bear a much stronger resemblance to Little Egret Egretta garzetta!

It's not entirely truthful to say that the last couple of days have been entirely migrant-free, as there was in fact a female Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus in one of my woodlots Wednesday!

A change of fortunes is long overdue now, and this will hopefully happen before I find myself in the worrying position of starting to recognise individual egrets! Above photos taken in Ding Shan and Qi Gu, Tainan County 4-5/4/18.

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