|Black-throated Diver, Arrow Valley Park 28th December 2018|
The Black-throated was very active diving frequently before resurfacing again in a different spot, sometimes closer, sometimes not. I tried to time my snapping with the birds diving with varying degrees of success.
As the light waned away the Black-throated Diver decided to preen and brush up. It was fascinating to watch as it swam rapidly across the surface of the water with open wings allowing water to be driven into the feathers. It would then preen for a bit before shaking off excess water by stretching upwards and opening its wings right out and flapping. It repeated this procedure at least half a dozen times while I sent the camera into overdrive. When I got home I had 350 photos to edit!
Fast forward to Sunday the 6th January and we were walking towards the River Thames by Beale Park at Pangbourne in the search for a Great Northern Diver that had been found there. The park, which is in Berkshire, contains a lake, that the bird had first been sighted on, which is connected to the river by a cutting. The river Thames forms the border between Oxfordshire and Berkshire. The Great Northern Diver was frequenting both lake and river so was available to listers from both counties. There was no sign of the Diver on the lake but as we approached the river we spotted it immediately just out from the cut swimming along in the current in tandem with a Cormorant. Just as I took a couple of record shots, it was only just getting light, a team of rowers came sweeping towards the birds and they both dived under. After the boat had passed the Cormorant resurfaced in almost the same spot seemingly unperturbed but of the Great Northern there was no sign. We walked downstream and I was amazed to see the Diver on the river but about a hundred yards away! It must have swam all that way underwater in order to get away from the rowers above. I considered that a remarkable feat!.
|Great Northern Diver, River Thames nr Pangbourne 6th January 2019|
As we neared the wildlife park entrance the Great Northern Diver really seemed to relax and I was able to take photos at leisure. The bird began to preen and exhibited the curious habit of stretching its right leg out behind it. This gave me the opportunity to take even better shots.
I felt even luckier still when the bird suddenly stretched its wings out for a good stretch before mimicking the Black-throated's actions in having a good old shake while pointing the bill skywards. The sun had also put in a brief appearance at this point lighting the bird up and thus allowing its beautiful cryptic plumage to be enjoyed even more.
The bird relaxed once more and I took a few more photos but then an angler in a small boat came chugging slowly upstream and startled the Diver once again. It resurfaced downstream well away and rather than follow it again we decided to stay put and see if it returned back upstream to its apparent favoured feeding spot.
Nearly two hours after we'd first arrived on the river bank we spied some other birders approaching and so, thinking that the views wouldn't get any better, decided to head for the car. We related our sightings to the others and left them to it. We had seen other birds too of course, some wild, some not so wild and in the wildlife park some not wild at all. In the wild category came Finches, Song Thrushes and various Ducks, not so wild were the half a dozen Egyptian Geese that flew around and amongst the definitely captive, Peacocks, Storks and Inca Terns!
|Egyptian Geese, free flying on the river but one is sporting a ring|
|Peacock, inside the Wildlife Park|
Luckily though Mrs Caley had watched the Kingfisher fly off onto a small jetty and I took a couple of record shots but I had missed my chance of much closer shots because of my haste to capture the Diver but I guess that I'm more likely to get another chance at a Kingfisher before I do at another Great Northern Diver.
A couple of the other birders had returned and they told us that the Diver had been scared out of the river by a flotilla of rowing boats and that it had actually swum back into the lake via the cutting rather than taking flight, so maybe we're not the bird whisperers that I cracked us to be after all. Divers are designed for swimming primarily so will always choose to swim ahead of flying to evade trouble. We chatted for a while and they told us of a Cattle Egret locally which we thought we'd go for later. Just as I was putting the gear back in the car I noticed that the Great Northern Diver had indeed taken flight and I managed to run across to fence and rattle off some quick images, none of which were focussed correctly but they'll do for posterity.
There was one last flurry of action as half a dozen Egyptian Geese flew in noisily, if loud hissing counts as noisy that is! Egyptian Geese are odd looking birds appearing as if somebody needed to use their paint pallet up when designing them.
We didn't see the Cattle Egret, it must have moved elsewhere but had had a terrific morning anyway.