Twitchers flock to see UK's first snowy egret

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A RARE white heron that has attracted thousands of bird watchers to Western Scotland was yesterday confirmed as Britain’s first ever snowy egret.

The heron, from North America, was first seen at Balvicar, Argyll and Bute, on 5 November last year. A bird-watcher, Bill Jackson, had identified the bird by yellow markings at the base of its bill, its feet and the back of its legs. The snowy egret has been added as the 565th wild bird species in Britain by the British Ornithologists’ Union (BOU) and the British Birds Rarities Committee.

Eric Meek, the Orkney-based chairman of the BOU’s records committee, said: "This is a first for Britain and is highly unusual because of the extraordinary length of its stay, and the number of localities at which it was recorded, visiting three different counties, Argyll and Bute, Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway." He pointed out that snowy egrets were not kept in captivity in Britain or Europe and said the visitor was probably a wild bird that had flown across the Atlantic.

In previous years, four of the egrets have appeared on the Azores off north-west Africa and two in Iceland, while another landed on a ship 30 miles south-west of Iceland.

He added that more northerly populations of this species in North America regularly migrated, which could result in birds straying outside their normal range. The snowy egret seems to have started a trend. A great white egret was recently sighted at Loch Torornish on South Uist in the Outer Hebrides is believed to be of the American species.