One might be forgiven for becoming somewhat blasé about Slavonian Grebes occurring in the County this year. After all, there was the long-stayer which first appeared at Earls Barton GP in late May, quickly relocating to Pitsford Reservoir for a protracted stay north of the causeway into early autumn. This individual was in stunning summer plumage when it arrived but it had moulted into the characteristic black, white and grey plumage of winter by the end of August, shortly after which it disappeared, last being seen there on 11th September.
It, or another, then (re)appeared at Pitsford on 29th October – this time on the ‘big side’, south of the causeway, close to the dam. It was still off the dam at midday today when Clive Bowley captured this super image of it catching and swallowing a Perch.
I don’t envy it having to contend with that über-sharp, spiky dorsal fin! Look at that super-bright, red orbital skin around the eye, a feature which it shares with Black-necked Grebe but which is lacking in winter-plumaged Red-necked Grebe.
Another Slavonian Grebe is currently in residence at Hollowell Reservoir, having been present there since 17th November.
Found late yesterday at Pitsford Reservoir and, despite its best attempts to outwit and elude this morning’s would-be observers (including me!), this fine summer-plumaged Black-necked Grebe finally gave itself up to those who entered Maytrees Hide and found it hugging the shoreline behind the reeds, where it remained invisible to birders looking from the perimeter path.
Only a few Black-necks are found in the County annually and many of these are juveniles in early-mid autumn plus the odd one or two in winter. Summer-plumaged individuals are rarely encountered so this one provided a real treat to those who were fortunate to see it this afternoon.
A Slavonian Grebe in full summer plumage was found this afternoon on Mary’s Lake at Earls Barton Gravel Pits by Robin and Wendy Gossage. This species averages around two records per year in Northants – normally in the winter months – and individuals in summer plumage are extremely rare in the County. In fact this is the latest spring record ever and the first in May since 1974, when a pair visited Billing GP on 1st May. Thanks again to Bob Bullock for the excellent photo below.