The UK’s oldest known great white egret has returned to the Wildlife Trust’s Blashford Lakes Nature reserve, near Ringwood.

Known as ‘Walter’, the fourteen-year-old bird has been a familiar sight to the thousands of visitors that visit the popular New Forest nature reserve every year.

Great white egrets are one of our rarer feathered visitors to the UK; until the 1990s they were mainly found in central and Eastern Europe.

However, their ranges spread and now they have become scarce winter visitors across southern England with a handful even staying to breed.

Walter usually arrives in August to spend his winters at Blashford Lakes nature reserve, as he has done since first arriving as a juvenile in 2003.

He spends about six months on and around Blashford Lakes nature reserve before leaving again in mid-February.

He can be identified as the same bird from the colour rings placed on his legs as a nestling in the Loire Valley, France by trained bird experts.

Bob Chapman, Reserves Officer at Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust said: “Walter has become a much-loved winter fixture on the reserve and although not the rarity he was when he first turned up, he is still a great sight. Especially good views can be had when he is fishing close to the Ivy North hide, where sometimes he can be seen alongside Kingfisher and Bittern in the winter.”