Great Northern Diver – Gavia Immer

I was rather pleasantly surprised a couple of weeks ago when I came across a pair of Great Northern Divers, Gavia immer, on the North edge of Wimbleball lake.

From a distance they looked somewhat similar to the common cormorant, but the bright white throat and chest shining in the sunshine was the first tell-tale sign that this bird was a little more special.

Great Northern divers are most likely to be spotted on the coast around Scotland and Cornwall, and tend not to come close in to the shore, so finding one in the middle of Wimbleball lake was rather a surprise! I suspect it must have been blown off course in one of the recent storms, as is often the case with rare bird sightings.

Of course the camera-phone doesn’t do the bird justice here, and a pair of binoculars (always a must for ID’ing birds on a nature ramble) was necessary to make a definite positive ID, especially since I wouldn’t normally expect to come across a great northern diver this far from the shore.

Great northern divers feed on fish, crustaceans, and invertebrates. They form monogamous pairs and stay together for life, so it’s quite likely that the pair we saw on the lake were in fact a couple! I wonder how long they’ll stick around for…?

Here’s a better picture of the bird in its winter plumage. There aren’t many chances to see these wonderful birds in the local area, so why not dust off your bins and see if you can catch a glimpse of them while they’re around!

Photograph by By Dick Daniels ( – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Definitely one of my nature-spotting highlights for 2018 so far!

By Chris Eyles, Senior Warden for Exmoor

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