A Fistful of Grebes

A visit on Tuesday to Staines Reservoir in search of a couple of rarer Grebes which have been seen there in the past few weeks. Staines Reservoir which lies close to London’s Heathrow Airport is a good site for water birds attracting many migrants, but it is also very large and access is only permissible from the central causeway, so it can be difficult to locate and identify birds at distance.

Once on the causeway I began to scan the water on either side and saw plenty of Coot, Tufted Ducks and Great Crested Grebe.

Great Crested Grebe

Continuing to scan I found a group of Common Tern and a single Swallow plus lots of Pied Wagtails on the reservoir edge. Eventually I joined another birder who was had already located the Red-necked Grebe, which had been present for some days, at the very back of the north reservoir. Even with telescopes on high magnification it was difficult to see, but it’s shape gave it away amongst the duck and Great Crested Grebes. I was unable to make out the white facial patch or it’s bill which would have been confirmation of it’s identity. And then it flew out of sight! Sometime later, we relocated it and this time we were able to see the white on the face and the characteristic bill.

Red Necked Grebe in non-breeding plumage (photo by Eric Ellingson (https://www.flickr.com/photos/ericellingson/)

We were joined by a couple of other birders and directed them onto the bird. our attention was briefly drawn away by a Buzzard perched on a lifebuoy stand at the far end of the reservoir. then one of the couple who had recently joined us said they had three ‘Little’ Grebes on the South reservoir. Knowing there to be three or four Black-necked Grebes in the area we all made a closer inspection through the telescopes and confirmed that they were in fact, Black-necked Grebes.

Black necked Grebe (photo by Imran Shah – https://www.flickr.com/photos/gilgit2/)

The day was moving on and having found my two target species I started the walk back to Stanwall to begin my journey home. A good day and my only regret was that the birds were not close enough to photograph, but you cant have everything and there is always another day.


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