CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to EADT Suffolk today CLICK HERE

Wildlife: Courtship display of the great crested grebe

PUBLISHED: 10:00 27 January 2016

Great crested grebes

Great crested grebes


The great crested grebe’s courtship dance is a fascinating and rarely captured moment that is happening in Suffolk’s lakes

From February and throughout the spring one of nature’s most beautiful sights can be seen on many of Suffolk’s lakes. The courtship display, or dance, of the great crested grebe is an amazing spectacle to watch as the birds go through an elaborate set of moves worthy of any Strictly Come Dancing routine.

It all starts with a pair of grebes that have established a territory on a lake calling towards each other across the water. This is to confirm their partnership and is what happens for most of the time when you watch them. As they swim around their territory they will often head towards each other and then reaffirm their relationship with a series of ‘dance moves’, as both birds face each other and perform a set of head bobs and shakes, whilst calling to each other and showing off their crest feathers on top of their heads. This dance can go on for several minutes at a time before the grebes head off in their own directions.

This behaviour itself is a pleasure to watch, but the real show stopper is the weed dance. This is when after a series of calls both birds dive down into the water and resurface carrying weed in their beaks. They then rush across the surface of the water towards each other. When they meet they rear up out of the water, paddling frantically to stay afloat whist performing their display. The weed dance only lasts a few seconds and is something I have only seen, let alone photographed, a few times.

The main image here of the grebes performing their weed dance was photographed on the lake at West Stow Country Park near to Bury St Edmunds. I have spent many hours there watching and photographing the wildlife on and around the lake.

Great crested grebesGreat crested grebes

On this particular early spring morning I arrived for sunrise to find the pair of grebes were happily courting on the lake. For most of the morning the pair would only call to each other or were only performing their head bobbing dance. Like with most wildlife action you do not get much warning but when I saw both birds resurface from their dives and started to rush towards each other I knew the opportunity for a weed dance was on. I only had a second or two to focus on the birds, but everything came together and I was able to get a series of images that I was pleased with.

Over a five-hour period this was the only time these grebes performed the weed dance, furthering my belief that patience and perseverance are two big keys for wildlife photography.

February wildlife highlights

As I write this to make the editorial deadline it is the weekend before Christmas and I had planned to highlight the first spring flowers that could be coming in to bloom in February. However, with snowdrops and daffodils presently in flower, plus blossom on some ornamental trees, it is hard to predict where the climate will be in February 2016.

Traditionally we should start to see the first spring flowers coming into bloom in February. These include species such as lesser celandine, which spread their beautiful yellow carpet of flowers across our woodlands. Dog violets and primroses would also be starting to flower in the woodlands. Some of our trees such hazel and some willows will have produced their catkins. On warm days you may even see the occasional butterfly as several species like the Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock And Red Admiral all hibernate for the winter and are woken by the mild weather. Frogs, and maybe toads, should be spawning in local lakes and ponds, and should we get a few warm days reptiles will start to come out of hibernation.

It will be very interesting to see what the weather is like when you read this, but our region’s wildlife will have to adapt to the changing climate.


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other EADT Suffolk Magazine visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by EADT Suffolk Magazine staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique EADT Suffolk Magazine account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Fri, 17:47

A typical part of the Suffolk village scene is the village sign, standing tall in a prominent part of the area and succinctly giving you an insight into the area’s history. Here are 15 Suffolk town or village signs and what they mean

Read more
Tue, 13:42

If you’re looking for someone to enjoy a few days in Suffolk this festive period then look no further than these 6 gorgeous locations

Read more
Tue, 09:44

Christmas is a wonderful time to spend with loved ones and there’s no better place to do that than Suffolk, with its outstanding natural beauty, charming villages and festive foodie delights

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

From Waveney and the Suffolk coast to Dedham Vale, these 19 pictures are guaranteed to get you exploring the beautiful towns and countryside of Suffolk this winter

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Suffolk in winter time is a magical place to be. There are Christmas markets, chilly walks, and days by the blustery seaside to be had. These 17 nostalgic pictures will definitely bring out that unique festive feeling.

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Invitation to View tours reveal the surprising wartime roles of East Anglia’s historic town and country properties | Words & Photos: Lindsay Want

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Are you searching for places to go this winter? Suffolk has some truly magical places simply perfect for a day out with the family that are sure to get you feeling festive. Here are 9 locations you have to visit over the Christmas holiday

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

As the season of parties approaches, hotel and restaurateur Milsoms is itself celebrating a milestone for one of its popular venues | Words: Ross Bentley

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Lindsay Want wanders the pilgrims’ paths and concrete runways around Horham, Denham and Redlingfield

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Not many people know it but a lot of your favourite films have been made in Suffolk. From blockbusters to independent, here are 21 films made in Suffolk.

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

EADT Suffolk Magazine weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search