Sunday 14 November 2010

Ring Bill Grebe

Mid-November and the Americans are still coming - the Pied-Billed Grebe near Littleborough being the latest. I saw one near Ashford in my then home county of Kent in 1999, so this would be a 'Millenium tick'. More seriously, getting some good images of one of only about 40 species that I have seen but not photographed, tempted me into the early start and an unusually long drive -the furthest I have travelled for any rarity this year. I had the excellent company of Anthony (and Mrs) McGeehan for the journey - not in person, of course, just the CD's from the highly recommended Birding from the Hip anthology - very witty musings punctuated by well chosen bird recordings. Mrs McGeehan's mis-transcribed phone messages for Anthony - 'Ring Bill Gull in Belmullet' - are among the highlights.

While there were plenty of birders around this morning, there were also plenty of places from where the bird could be seen. By a stroke of luck I happened to be standing by the best of them, the tiny, pad-locked 4 man hide, when a ranger-type turned up with the key. After 5 minutes inside, the Grebe swam directly in front of the open window. Bright weather had dominated north of Birmingham, but a light mist hung over Hollingworth Lake and the light was far from ideal for photography. Despite this drawback, I could not fail to get some satisfactory images as the bird cruised past just feet away. I would have stayed longer but thought I should move for others to get in the hide, but despite the crowd on the path outside there weren't many takers - a real contrast to the testy queues waiting to see last weekend's American Bittern.

If you can hold your nerve, there's a lot to be said for Sunday twitching, especially it is the first weekend a bird has been present: the crowds (and tensions) from Saturday have dissipated, the traffic is lighter, and the punters always seem more a bit more relaxed - 'communicating to share, not to impress', as McGeehan says about American birders.

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