Monday 20 February 2012
Pitsford Reservoir - 18th February 2012
The year list is coming along quite nicely and although I realise I'll find it very hard to compete with the other year listers, particularly the ones who have retired and are free to see birds whenever they wish, I'm still going to give it my best shot if nothing else just to see how many I can reach. With this in mind I headed to Pitsford Reservoir today hoping to see the long staying Slavonian Grebe. This bird I first saw last year at Grafham Water in full summer plumage and since then it has done the roads before finally settling down at this location. I have watched it gradually moult from sum plum into winter so this bird and I aren't exactly strangers. ecently it has relocated to the south side and after a brief email conversation with a local birder called Neil McMahon I headed out to see it for the year. The day started quite nicely although the forecast had predicted heavy rain by midday but despite this I decided to give it my best shot. I started by walking down to the dam and across onto the far side, I trudged along the shoreline and into the vegetation with the hope of flushing a Jack Snipe but to no avail. A pair of Dunlin on the shore proved to be the highlights here as I walked further around the bay to meet a pair of Redshank busily feeding on the headland. I scanned and scanned picking up constant Little Grebe and Great Crested Grebe but no Slavonian. The wind now was really picking up and the birds were being driven into the bays on the south side so I carried on checking every bird I could find eventually picking up a cracking drake Smew in with the Tufted Duck but still not was I was after. By now I had reached the causeway and a Ruff was a nice surprise feeding just off the road and a redhead Smew on the north side was also found. By now the weather had turned really bad, light rain had developed into heavy rain and the temperature had dropped low enough to turn some of it into sleet. I had now had the delightful prospect of a 3 mile walk face first into this barrage of ice and water back to the car. I kept scanning though throughout, trying hard not to loose the reason for being here in the first place, I checked everything but no Slavonian Grebe could be seen. By the time I had reached Pintail Bay I was soaked to the skin and absolutely freezing cold, which in a way was the least of my worries as more importantly my optics were covered in rain drops and making a good viewing of anything near impossible. As I walked around the corner to be able to view the water off the Yacht Club I managed one last scan and picked up a Grebe, slightly larger than a Little Grebe but smaller than a Great Crested with white cheek panels and a black cap. I asked myself "could this be it finally?", but in answering I had to admit with the state the optics were in and the distance of the bird there is no way I would be happy to say I had seen it. I am listing just for an experiment and not to win a prize so despite being 90% sure it was the Slavonian I will do the honourable thing and leave it off the list - well for now anyway! I will be coming back though for a better look!