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"Extremely rare" bird in Inishowen 08.01.13

BIRDWATCHERS are flocking to Inishowen in the hope of seeing an African visitor that has rarely been seen in Ireland.
A cattle egret has been spotted at a pig farm near the village of St Johnston causing much excitement and interest among wildlife enthusiasts and ornithologists.
Birdwatch Ireland development officer, Niall Hatch, said while sightings of the large white bird in Ireland are rare, the occurrence so far north is "exceptionally rare".
He said our milder than usual winter and climate change generally were possible contributory factors in the birdís arrival.
"This is a very rare bird generally for Ireland but getting one as far north as Donegal is an exceptional occurrence," said Mr Hatch.
Pssst...Hey pig, I can teach you to fly. Photo: Christine Cassidy.
The cattle egret is a migratory member of the heron family and is native to Africa and Asia. It is often found riding on the backs of herd animals such as wildebeest on the plains and savannahs of the tropics and sub-tropics.
Mr Hatch said sightings of the bird at a livestock farm would be typical given that it is an opportunist feeder and follows large animals to catch insects disturbed by them in the earth.
A number of cattle egrets, which have a wingspan of about three feet at maturity, have previously been recorded by Birdwatch Ireland in southern counties including Cork, Waterford and Wexford in recent years.
Cattle Egret at pig farm in St Johnston, Co Donegal. Photo: Christine Cassidy.
The organisation's records now show just two sightings of the cattle egret in Co Donegal. Mr Hatch said the first ever sighting of a cattle egret in neighbouring Co Tyrone last November is likely the same bird.
"This is an important sighting in Donegal not only because it is such a rare bird in the overall Irish context but when you see birds like this turning up in new areas and expanding their range, it is often a sign that something is changing.
"It would contribute more evidence towards theories behind climate change. Over time, a pattern does seem to be building up with this species," he said.
Our photograph of the cattle egret in St Johnston was captured by nature enthusiast, Christine Cassidy from Derry who was accompanied by members of the Inishowen Wildlife Club when they witnessed the rare bird.
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