Great Egret Nest Activity

At Lake Martin a few weeks ago, several Great Egrets were starting to nest. The occupied nests closest to my vantage point at the edge of Rookery Road are shown in the image below. They were more than 100 ft from the camera.

7DI_9928-xCanon EOS 7D (600mm, f/7.1, 1/2500 sec, ISO500)

In the above photo, there are three egrets in at least two nests. It was not clear at the time if the two egrets on the left were a mating pair in a single nest, or if the one in back was lying in a third nest.

As its breeding plumage was stirred up by the breeze, the standing egret went through several body gyrations for the several minutes I watched it. Sometimes it would do a little preening as seen in the next two images.

7DI_0061-xCanon EOS 7D (600mm, f/7.1, 1/2500 sec, ISO320)

7DI_0018-xCanon EOS 7D (600mm, f/7.1, 1/2500 sec, ISO320)

On a few occasions the egret would crouch and dip its head as far down as possible. Initially I thought it was looking for new twigs for its nest, but I never saw it bring anything up.

7DI_0007-xCanon EOS 7D (600mm, f/7.1, 1/2500 sec, ISO320)On other occasions the egret would stand high, extending its neck and head and lean as far back as possible.

7DI_0101-xCanon EOS 7D (600mm, f/7.1, 1/2500 sec, ISO320)

Being ignorant of bird behavior, I assume these extreme poses were some kind of courtship dance. Whatever it was, it never seemed to interest the egret lying in the background.

After watching this egret for a while, I moved to another location for several minutes to photograph other birds. When I returned, there were now two Great Egrets in the nest and a third perched nearby. The third egret seemed to be watching the pair “necking” while they apparently worked on the nest.

7DI_0209-xCanon EOS 7D (428mm, f/6.3, 1/2500 sec, ISO320)

Soon thereafter, while the camera was trained on the pair of egrets in the nest, the third egret left its perch and flew across the foreground. (The photo below also suggests that the egret lying in the background is in a separate nest.)

7DI_0223-xCanon EOS 7D (600mm, f/7.1, 1/2500 sec, ISO320)

The above event put an end to the pair’s working on the nest for the rest of the time I watched them. Although occasionally preening, they stayed standing side by side.

7DI_0227-xCanon EOS 7D (600mm, f/7.1, 1/800 sec, ISO100)

A few days after these photographs were taken, the rainy season moved in, and it hasn’t ended yet. We are anxious to return to Lake Martin as soon as possible to see how the nesting of the Great Egrets and others has progressed.


The location from which these photos were taken is shown on the map below. Zoom in for more detail.

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