Interactions between Great White Egrets, Grey Herons and Cormorants

Published on 08 November 2017 in Main articles

By Andrew Bloomfield and Baz Scampion

Abstract During October 2016 two Great White Egrets Egretta alba were present at Holkham Lake in north Norfolk. The partly natural freshwater lake is approx. 1,200 x 300 m, and is well-stocked with fish, including eel Anguilla anguilla, carp Cyprinus carpio, roach Rutilus rutilus, stickleback Gasterosteus aculeatus and tench Tinca tinca. The first Great White Egret for the site was recorded in late September 2016. Initially wary (and preferring to feed along the shallow edge of the western shore, furthest from the majority of visitors to the estate), it became more approachable in October, frequenting the south end of the lake. A brick-built weir there creates an obstacle where fish congregate at times, depending on water levels and/or weather conditions. In recent years, other fish-eaters such as Great Cormorants Phalacocorax carbo, Grey Herons Ardea cinerea, and Little Egrets Egretta garzetta have exploited a glut of young fish there. On 7th October 2016 two Great White Egrets were reported feeding close to the weir, so we visited the lake just after first light on 8th and 9th October to try to observe the birds and photograph their behaviour.

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Great White Egret hovering close to a fishing Great Cormorant, Holkham, Norfolk, October 2016. Baz Scampion