Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Black-necked Grebe studies; Farmoor 12th May 2018

Mrs Caley and I often set out on a Saturday and drive south while pondering"where shall we go?". Mostly it is a straight choice between Otmoor or Farmoor. Generally it will depend on where everybody else wants a decent bird to turn up since if we choose one then there will be a goody at the other! This time we chose Otmoor and true to form as we were about half way along the bridleway a message came through that a summer plumaged black-necked grebe had been seen and was showing well at Farmoor! Absolutely bloody typical! However, we were rather relaxed about it since we'd seen one in summer garb at Otmoor a couple of years back and had seen a few at other times of the year in Oxfordshire and indeed at Farmoor before. So instead of panicking and legging it straight over to Farmoor, we continued to enjoy Otmoor for another hour or so before driving the short distance to the other side of Oxford. Whilst on Otmoor we were treated to male tufted ducks displaying to a female during which, for the first time, I heard the bubbling calls that are intended to woo her. A tiny little bit reminiscent of a black grouse lek!

"Bubbling over! Almost"

"Me, me, choose me!" 
"Ooh you are awful, but I like you!"
There were also many reed and sedge warblers singing away and ac couple gave themselves up to the camera. The damn cuckoos kept well away as usual (although I finally got lucky a few days later when one forgot the Cuckoo Protocol and came far too close to Old Caley!)

Even when we arrived at Farmoor, a little after midday, we stayed calm and after scoping the bird to ensure it was still present which, as is quite common for scarce birds at the reservoir was right in the far south west corner of F2 and just about as far from the carpark as you can get, we decided to take in some lunch in the sailing club cafe first!

We saw our first ever black-necked grebes at the then famous hotspot of Woolston Eyes nature reserve about 15 years ago on the way up to Scotland. We really didn't realise at the time that you could see birds such as the grebes in other places as migrants. I remember that we had paid £10 to gain a key to the reserve and upon entering the first available hide had looked out at about 20 black-necked grebes! Great to see at the time but I also remember being a bit underwhelmed at how easy it was! Those grebes though were the "starter" in a sumptuous 3 course extravaganza of birds that day as we also had as the "main course" a pair of eagle owls with their 3 owlets at Dunsop Bridge and a fantastic "dessert" in a fabulous white-tailed lapwing at Caelaverock!

We hauled ourselves around to where the black-necked grebe was, meeting a few of our Oxfordshire peers once there and settled in to watch the bird. It was an absolute stunner! Although views were pretty poor with the bird not coming any closer than about 15 feet (!), I managed to get some saveable images, the best of which I present here. 

The grebe dived frequently and it became good fun trying to capture the "point of impact" which it goes without saying, I failed to do, but I did get close. I never saw it resurface with any food items so imagine that it must eat small invertebrates and the like while submerged. It did grab a few of the ubiquitous flies off of the water surface but, unlike some of the others present, I didn't get any shots of that actually happening!

I think that the set of images that I took of this bird are some of the best that I've ever taken. Still, it appears, not good enough for Birdguides Photo of the Week selection panel though! Oh well, never mind and maybe, just maybe this time I will stop trying and GIVE UP!

                                                                        THE END!

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