Great White Egrets – A sign of a changing climate

Loch Lomond NNR

Once a rare visitor, the Great White Egret is now a fairly common sight in many UK wetlands, including on Loch Lomond NNR. They have been seen on the reserve a number of times of the past few years, most recently this week – spotted by David, one of our volunteers. He managed to capture some great photos of the bird as it flew around, perching in one spot for a short time then flying off again.

Over the past 20 years ad hoc sightings have become increasingly more regular and Great White Egrets now occur throughout the year in southern parts of the UK, first breeding here in 2012 in Somerset.

They definitely make a change from the usual wetland birds seen on the reserve and are impressive birds to come across, being enormous, similar to the size of a grey heron, and strikingly white (the name says it all really).

Yet, although an exciting addition to our countryside their presence here is a reminder that our climate is changing. Like their relative the Little Egret, these birds are gradually extending their range north and westwards driven by rising temperatures. The southern part of their range is proving too warm and dry for them and our increasingly hotter climate is becoming more suitable. Now they have a toe-hold in the UK they have the opportunity to colonise here and it is likely that we will see many more breeding pairs in years to come.

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