Saturday, 28 March 2015

A southern red-neck

If you go to the Norfolk coast or Portland harbour in Winter you may come across a red-necked grebe. It will probably be miles away though and looking pretty dull in its Winter plumage. Summer plumaged birds, and ones inland always attract a lot of interest as they are really smart birds.
One fitting all these descriptions had taken up semi-residence at Farmoor, a series of artificial reservoirs near Oxford, for the  last few days so early this morning I set out for it.
When I got there about 7.45 it was dank and blowing a hoolie across the causeway. The bird was normally listed at "western bank, F2" which in English means right on the far side from the car park. So, off I trotted. It took about 30 minutes as I was stopping to scrutinise every grebe but it was 90% gcg's and the odd little grebe. After an hour on the west bank I saw some other birders and they told me it had been seen right back by the car-park. As I was walking back this was then confirmed by another birder. When I got to the car-park I was just in time to catch it moving back to the west bank. So, I sort of followed it across the reservoir. It was always a long way out but did seem to be moving with purpose. Of course, this did mean I was now walking back  round again!!
I eventually got to a spot where you could watch it and slowly it kept coming closer and closer. It was fishing all the time and but over 30 minutes it went from a scope view to bins view to naked eye view. Eventually it settled down about 40 or 50 feet off the bank and was fishing and preening.  The light wasn't brilliant and it was windy and choppy but it gave great views.

Either there is a lot of fish there or it is a particularly good fisher.

It seemed to have a very high success rate. I reckoned it was over 75% for it diving and coming up with a fish. With it so close you got good views of both the fish and it struggling to manoeuvre them down.
There wasn't a lot else there. I was hoping for an early sand martin or a tern but apart from gulls it was pretty empty. There were a few chiffchaffs singing in the woods though which was nice.
Nice bird anyway. Only my second breeding plumage bird after one at Staines a few years ago and that was always miles away.