Last Friday, June 19th, we went to the Derby Poo Ponds. We were sitting in the new hut having lunch. There were not many birds to observe due to the bad state of the wetland, but there was a breeze and as usual there was nobody else around. There had not been many birds in the settling ponds either, but there were some Royal Spoonbills and White Ibis. I suddenly saw an egret flying in front of the hut heading towards the settling ponds. It was clearly a Cattle Egret, due to the orange feathers, but it is June! Cattle Egret should not be in breeding plumage in June in the north of Australia!

The Derby wetlands water had all gone green

Cattle Egret have been recorded in Australia since 1948. They are usually observed in flocks around cattle, but this one was alone. We do occasionally see Cattle Egret around Broome, but never in breeding plumage and always with cattle. We have never observed a Cattle Egret in Derby. They always appear small, especially when compared to Great Egrets. We soon packed up our picnic and moved back to the settling ponds and thankfully the lone Cattle Egret had landed there.

Cattle Egret

I got as close to the fence as I could to take photos of the Cattle Egret with its beautiful breeding plumage. It was feeding on any bugs it could find near the water’s edge and in the dead bush. It appeared to be rather concerned about the other birds that were present.

Cattle Egret with Royal Spoonbills and White Ibis

A White Ibis decided that it did not want the Cattle Egret in the area and had a good go at it. The Cattle Egret realised it was not welcome and moved across the settling ponds.

White Ibis attacks the Cattle Egret and it moves!

Cattle Egret alone-with a beer can! Don’t ask!

We hung around for a while and then headed off camping again. We returned to the Derby Poo Ponds on 22nd June and the Cattle Egret was no longer there. It is anybody’s guess where it came from and where it was going and where the rest of the flock was!

Written by Clare M
Clare and her husband, Grant, have lived permanently in Broome, Western Australia since 1999 after living in various outback locations around Western Australia and Darwin. She has lived in the Middle East and the United States and traveled extensively in Europe. She monitors Pied Oystercatchers breeding along a 23km stretch of Broome's coastline by bicycle and on foot. She chooses not to participate in social media, but rather wander off into the bush for peace and tranquility. Thankfully she can write posts in advance and get away from technology!