It's now official that there has been breeding success at Shapwick Heath NNR and Mike Hannon captured the first pictures of a chick later shown on the BBC Wildlife site and on his Flickr site. Congratulations to the team at Natural England who helped to create the environment that made this possible and to the team of professional and volunteer watchers who have helped to keep them safe and who have since provided a great service to visitors to the reserve.
Unsurprisingly I've spent a few hours down there myself, hoping in vain for a sighting of a chick. I'm sure it will happen but they appear not yet to be airworthy even though they seem to be almost as big as the adults. Note in Mike's pictures that the chicks lack the feathery breeding plumage of the adults and that they have a shorter entirely orange bill.
There at least two other great white egrets around the area as well. The pictures below show the physical differences in these birds - the one photographed in flight shows red legs instead of black, an entirely black bill instead of the half orange half black of the 'breeding pair'. Currently the two that haven't bred are showing green lores - ie a patch of brilliant green at the base of the bill.
As well as the fun of watching these gorgeous birds doing their thing, there was plenty of other bird life around. Sedge warblers were very showy as was one particular reed warbler. A Cetti's warbler kept doing regular flights in front of me but these really are 'bogey birds' for me and I have yet to get a really good photo. Bitterns came and went and a great-spotted woodpecker came and did some pecking behind me. I hope to put up some video footage of it below but am not sure if it will work. Apologies for the poor quality of some of the photos, most were taken very early on a misty morning and others on a late evening stint.