A stunning summer-plumaged Black-throated Diver was found by John Friendship-Taylor at Pitsford Reservoir during the closing hours of daylight yesterday evening (6th May). Visible from the feeding station area at the mouth of Scaldwell Bay, it was still present at dusk and remained there until 05.20 this morning, when it was seen by Antony Taylor to fly off north.
This is only the 20th record for the county, following the last in 2012, when one was at Stanford Reservoir. Fifty-five percent of all records have come from Pitsford.
While undertaking a WeBS count on 26th November, Bob Bullock found two Slavonian Grebes on the main barrage lake a Clifford Hill GP. Remaining faithful to an area in the north-west corner of the lake, they were still present two days later but there have been no reports since 28th. Are they still there?
November proved to be a good month for this species in the county, with multiple arrivals on 14th including one at Thrapston GP, which remained until at least 19th, and another at Ravensthorpe Res, which was quickly joined by another the same day, both having departed by the following morning.
The two at Clifford Hill GP provided an opportunity for relatively close study and it was immediately evident that the two birds were quite different in plumage.
One was an obvious textbook grey, black and white, winter-plumaged adult with a sharply demarcated black crown, white cheeks and a clean white foreneck. The other could be aged as a first winter, still retaining some juvenile plumage in the form of diffuse, dusky areas, most obvious on the rear cheeks as well as on the neck sides (which show a noticeable brownish hue), extending across the foreneck, which is also rather dirty-looking compared to that of the adult.
At Stanwick GP on 11th November and uncharacteristically short-staying. They are not annual but November is the peak month for arrivals in the county and this one’s a bit special on two counts. Firstly it’s a first for Stanwick, which appears never to have been visited by any species of diver before. Secondly, it’s an adult.
Pretty plain upperparts without all those neatly pale-fringed feathers. Nearly all those which visit the county are juvenile/first-winters and they frequently linger on into the winter, with Pitsford Reservoir producing 53% of the records over the past 30 years.
This one did a moonlight flit. Where is it now? Bizarrely, a juvenile was discovered today on Mary’s Lake at Earls Barton GP. These two will be about the 42nd and 43rd records for the county.
Last week’s Red-necked Grebe, found by David Arden at Pitsford Reservoir on Wednesday 19th March, is the first in Northamptonshire since 22nd November 2008, when one paid a brief visit to Stanwick GP. An analysis of the last thirty years’ records reveals that, prior to that date, this species was an annual visitor to the County, with up to half a dozen records per year, including several instances of summering. So, after an absence of five and a half years, the Pitsford individual proved to be a bonus for local birders, as well as a number of out of county visitors who also travelled to see it.
Still present today but not yet in full summer plumage, it has remained relatively close to the dam during its stay, providing good views and exceptional photo opportunities for all comers.
Red-necked Grebe, Pitsford Res, 21st March 2014 (Mike Alibone). Ensure the ‘cogwheel’ is clicked on and the resolution 720p selected to watch in higher quality HD.
The juvenile Great Northern Diver, present at Pitsford Reservoir since 15th December, has been showing rather well, presenting superb photographic opportunities for visiting birders. Here are a few.
… and some ropey video …
Juvenile Great Northern Diver, Pitsford Res, 24th December 2013 (Mike Alibone). Click on the cogwheel and change to 720pHD to view at higher resolution.
The broad, neat pale fringes to the upperpart feathers indicate it is a juvenile (plainer upperparts with distinct spotting on coverts and more prominent neck ‘gashes’ in adult). Great Northern Divers have appeared almost annually in Northants in recent years. They are the commonest diver to occur in the County with 29 records in the last 45 years, outnumbering Red-throated and the rarer Black-throated with 23 records and 10 records in the same period respectively.
Late yesterday morning Mark Piper discovered a juvenile Black-throated Diver at the feeder stream end of Stanford Reservoir. It remained quite elusive, diving for long periods of time until it was flushed by a fisherman at 11.35 after which it flew off at tree-top height toward the dam. Subsequent searching failed to relocate it. This morning it was present again close to the Leicestershire side of the reservoir, where Chris Hubbard took the photo below.
It then moved again to the small feeder pool on the opposite side of the road to the reservoir before flying again to the main body of water, remaining in the vicinity of the raft during the early-mid afternoon.
The white flank patch, visible just above the water, rules out Great Northern Diver (as does the relatively narrow bill, absence of both neck patches and bulging forehead) and vagrant Pacific Diver (as does the large bill and absence of chin strap or vent strap).
This is only the nineteenth record for Northants, the last being one at Thrapston GP on 18th November 2001. Ten of the previous eighteen have been at Pitsford Reservoir. It is also the 40th for Leicestershire/Rutland, with most between November and February and 60% of records from Rutland Water, since it was constructed, (Steve Lister in litt).
This Black-necked Grebe has been present at Pitsford Reservoir since I first found it on 14th September. Black-necked Grebe has been thin on the ground in Northants this year and it’s only the second one to be discovered in the County in 2012. I took some rather poor video footage today while the bird was off the dam. My attempts at videoscoping can only get better … 🙂
Ha! Having said the Clifford Hill Black-necked Grebe looks like it might be a moulting adult, I had closer views in better light late this afternoon and clearly I was wrong. It’s a juvenile with a considerable brown suffusion to the upperparts and neck, the latter with a faded, almost broken front. Just goes to show that photographs can be deceptive with regard to assessing true colour tones and extent!
Last Friday evening, Dave James and I found a Black-necked Grebe on the main barrage lake at Clifford Hill Gravel Pits and it is still present there today. This appears to be the only one to have been recorded in the County so far this year. We can normally expect up to half a dozen records annually, with Scaldwell Bay at Pitsford Reservoir being the place to find one as, in recent years, it has consistently produced one or two from late August into September.
The solid black crown and intensively dark fore-neck suggest this one is an adult in moult to winter plumage. Compare this with the full summer plumaged adult at Pitsford last August. Thanks are due to Jonathan Philpot, who appears to have managed a much closer approach to obtain images than I have been able to!