The week leading up to last Sunday was a frustrating one as it felt like I was being led on a merry chase the length and breadth of the Loughor estuary. Reports kept filtering through across the various local channels that a Great White Egret had been found first at the local WWT site at Llanelli, and subsequently much closer to home on the mud flats near Llangennech. I can just about see both of these locations from my bedroom window but at that distance no amount of optimistic scanning was ever going to reveal anything. As a result I started to make the first of what was to be several trips down to the estuary across the next seven days.
My first challenge was that apart from the car park on the Loughor foreshore I had no idea how to view the target area from the Llangennech side. After pouring over the OS maps and scanning through various Flickr photographs I realised that a concrete track leads from the railway station at Llangennech down to a sewage works from which it is possible to get superb views across the water. This was an absolute revelation as for the first time I was able to see feeding habitat that had previously been obscured and the numbers of birds, in particular Little Egrets, was quite staggering. On one evening visit I also saw the beginnings of what will develop into an impressive roosting flock of Starlings come the autumn, but the Great White Egret remained elusive.
As Sunday dawned we decided to do a comprehensive sweep of the estuary after news that the bird had again been seen. We started off at Llangennech where we counted an impressive seventeen Little Egrets and fourteen Grey Herons. The local Gulls were also assembled in good numbers with 546 Black Headed Gulls, 22 Herring Gulls, 63 Lesser Black Backed Gulls and a solitary Great Black Backed Gull. Cormorants, Buzzards, Common Sandpipers, Swifts, Oystercatchers, Goldfinches and even Mallards all put in an appearance but still there was no Great White. We moved around to the Loughor foreshore where a flock of twelve Greylag Geese was an usual find for the location whilst an overflying Whimbrel was a welcome sight. We briefly got excited by a large white bird but it turned out to be a rather impressive sculpture of a Little Egret that has recently been added by the local council.
We returned home feeling a bit deflated that after several hours of searching we had still been unsuccessful in our quest, a feeling not exactly enhanced when I checked the Carmarthenshire sightings page to see that the Great White Egret had been seen barely half an hour ago back at Llangennech. Needless to say we were straight back in the car and soon feverishly scanning the Egrets once more. It was Emma that finally struck gold with an individual just south of the railway station. It was a bit too distant to see its features clearly but a group of four Little Egrets did an obliging walk past and were positively dwarfed by their much larger cousin. Result! We retraced our steps to try and get a better vantage point, but in the process the bird must have moved on as when we tried to relocate it we were once again out of luck. Inevitably at this point the doubts started to set in. Could we have been mistaken? In my opinion I think not as the large size difference that we had just witnessed could only have been as a result of a Great White Egret standing next to a Little Egret. Therefore I am happy to say that after a week of searching we finally got the blighter. Probably.