Sunday, 22 December 2013

Velvet Scoter, Great Northern Diver and a Cattle Egret - December 22nd 2013

The day I went to see the Hume's Leaf Warbler (see previous post) I heard that quite a few people were heading up to see the Velvet Scoter at nearby Eyebrook Reservoir afterwards but the combination of having seen a Velvet Scoter at Grafham Water the previous weekend and the sheer sense of relief at seeing the Hume's Warbler meant that we went for a celebration pint instead in the pub instead. The next day I started to regret the decision though as I started to receive texts from people saying what a good looking bird it was and how well it was showing. Then seeing pictures of the bird on the internet showing that it was a cracking looking drake meant that if I got an opportunity to see it I'd have to make the effort. Due to work that opportunity didn't come until December 21st but luckily the bird was still being reported all through the previous week. Jon, Kirsty and me decided to give it a bash and we made our way there first thing in the morning. The heavy rain was dampening the mood a little but patches of blue sky started to raise spirits and as we approached the site my phone beeped with a Birdguides alert to say the bird was still there. Phew! We parked up and walked along the path towards the dam and it wasn't long before we picked it out quite a way off but luckily it started to swim closer and closer. It eventually reached the tower by the dam and it seemed to like this area for feeding as it constantly dived and also played a game of hide and seek as moved from one side of the tower to the other making photographers and birders pick up their tripods to run around to the other side only to run back again as it changed direction. As the sun periodically emerged we got to some good shots (thanks once again for Jon in allowing me to use his camera this weekend) and I also Iphonescoped a shaky video.

Velvet Scoter, Eyebrook Res, Leics

Velvet Scoter, Eyebrook Res, Leics

After we had our fill of the stunning Velvet Scoter we admired the Tree Sparrows on the feeders and then we headed over to Pitsford Reservoir in Northants to try and find the Great Northern Diver. We had a bite to eat in the cafe before making our way to the Moulton Grange Bay car park and headed straight out to the Holly bush area as this is where the bird seemed to favour during the previous week. Unfortunately though it wasn't here and despite searching and searching we couldn't see it. I have seen a lot of Great Northern Divers in the past though so I knew not to give up hope just yet. It's amazing how such a big bird can be so difficult to see! Mainly because they spend so much time underwater and they can sink quite low when swimming. We walked back towards the car following the bank constantly checking the water infront of us and as we reached Moulton Grange Bay I saw a large bird slowly swimming and when I got the bins on it we finally had the Great Northern Diver. At last! I really though at one point we were going to dip it and we still lost it a couple of times despite knowing the area it was in but eventually it came up and slowly swam around the small headland we were standing on allowing us to get a few pics before the windsurfers came a bit too close and it swam quickly off around the corner - no doubt back to the Holly bush.

Great Northern Diver, Pitsford Res, Northants.

The following day me and Jon decided to head to Bucknell Wood to try and get some pics of a showy Kingfisher John Friendship-Taylor had found a while ago. Sam joined us too and John Friendship-Taylor and his partner Emily met us there by the pond but unfortunately the previous few days heavy rain had turned the water very muddy and the Kingfisher had gone. The heavens absolutely opened when we got there too so we spent quite a while standing under some trees trying to keep dry so we headed back to the car to decide what to do next. Sam and the others had to head off me Jon and me decided to try and see the Cattle Egret that had been at Steeple Claydon in Buckinghamshire. John Friendship-Taylor gave us the directions as he'd seen it earlier in the week and we headed off. Luckily Birdguides did it again with impeccable timing and an alert appeared on my phone to say the bird was there so we parked up and walked along the road to view the field. Unfortunately though the bird wasn't there! We had heard that it was mobile so we didn't give up and we wandered along the road checking the fields on either side. We reached the farm and all of a sudden I looked towards the bullocks in a field infront of Briars Hill farm to see a pure white bird glowing in the sun. I got the bins on it to confirm it was the Cattle Egret and we gradually approached while taking pictures. The bullocks though were their normal playful selves and one in particular seemed rather fascinated by the Egret and it eventually scared it off. Lucily though the bird soon came back and we approached the area from along the footpath to the west of the farm. Luckily the bullocks then switched their attentions from the Cattle Egret to us which actually meant we had a bit of cover to get a little closer to take some more pics. We rattled off a few pics before the bird looked around and then took off, circled round, and flew over the road and into the sheep field.

Cattle Egret, Steeple Claydon, Bucks

Cattle Egret, Steeple Claydon, Bucks
Cattle Egret, Steeple Claydon, Bucks
Cattle Egret, Steeple Claydon, Bucks
We left the bird at this point and headed home. It had been a great weekend some some good views of normally hard to "see well" birds. Most views of Great Northern Divers and Velvet Scoters are either bobbing up and down on choppy seas or distantly flying along the coast, and of course it was very nice to see a UK Cattle Egret actually associating with cattle!











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