The Great White Egret breeds in Holkham National Nature Reserve for the first time

Three young Great White Egrets have fledged marking the county’s first successful breeding attempt

In the 50th year of Holkham being designated a National Nature Reserve, and following the recent announcement of the estate’s Approved Body Status awarded under Section 35 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act; it is perhaps timely that the occasion is marked by the arrival of a new first for the reserve. Following the formation of a thriving colony of Norfolk’s first breeding Little Egrets in 2002 and the colonisation by Spoonbills in 2010, Holkham National Nature Reserve has announced that another rare bird, the Great White Egret, has joined its long list of breeding bird species.

Spanning the coast from Burnham Norton to Blakeney, the Holkham National Nature Reserve in north Norfolk covers an area of around 3,706 hectares. It is a unique and very special mix of habitats including freshwater grazing marshes, saltmarsh, mature pine woodland, sand dunes and also renowned for its golden sands. The area welcomes migrant birds, including thousands of pink-footed geese during winter and is home to rare flora and fauna providing a rich and diverse natural offering.

The Great White Egret was persecuted across much of Europe during the 1800s to provide a fashionable, international hat trade with ornate feathers. For much of the 20th century it was restricted to the wetlands of Eastern Europe, yet since the 1990s, it started to make a comeback and began nesting in increasing numbers all across Europe. In 2012 it nested in the UK for the first time on the Somerset Levels, where small but increasing numbers have continued to breed.

Since then Norfolk has also recorded more each year, culminating in the county’s first successful breeding attempt this year when three young fledged. The reserve’s mix of freshwater grazing marsh with its extensive network of dykes, pools and scrapes and importantly wet woodland provides an ideal habitat for this large stately fish eating member of the heron family.

For further information please visit the Holkham website.

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