Friday, 9 April 2010

Devastating blow to rare grebe

The Tyttenhanger Fishing Pit BLACK-NECKED GREBE (Martin Parr), clearly illustrating the true extent of its wing damage after perhaps colliding with the overhead power lines

Jim Middleton's shot, showing the severe damage to the wing

Robin Pearson's images


Another beautiful, warm spring day, continuing the theme of yesterday. Little in the way of visible passage but more and more summer visitors arriving, particularly warblers. Temperatures again reached 59 degrees F, with long spells of sunshine and clear blue skies.


Thanks to JT, finally connected with my first SEDGE WARBLER of the year (243). It was a very skulking individual, and quite mobile, and was working its way through the reed sections on the south side of the causeway. It was singing quite frequently.

There were also 3 RED-CRESTED POCHARDS on show (a pair on the boating lake and an adult drake on the main lake) and 83 Tufted Duck.

A male Blackcap was showing well by the footbridge and two different Common Chiffchaffs


Joan prompted me to get over to Tyttenhanger as soon as possible. Martin Parr had just phoned with some very concerning news. The summer-plumaged BLACK-NECKED GREBE that Steve Blake had relocated this morning on the Fishing Lake appeared to be badly injured and concern for its welfare was being aired. It took me about 15 minutes to be on site, and a further 20 minutes to find the bird. It had been roosting out of the water on the bank but a flurry of kind-hearted fishermen directed me to where they had seen it go and after a few brief glimpses, I eventually tracked it down 75 yards east of the causeway on the north bank.

It was in a sorry state indeed, with one of its wings completely ripped from its socket and twisted back round and left hanging. It had presumably collided with the overhead pylons whilst trying to depart overnight and then crash-landed either on the lake or in surrounding vegetation. Nevertheless, it seemed very perky and alert, was diving frequently, catching numerous small fish and taking insects from the surface. With the aid of the fishermen on the bank, I borrowed a landing net and attempted to catch the bird. I scooped it into the net, had a quick look at its wing injury and was very pleased to see the bird dive swiftly and escape underwater. It was certainly not on its last legs but its injury was very serious and beyond any sensible repair. I phoned several people I knew that cared for wild birds, including staff at the RSPB, and it was generally agreed that it was a lost cause, and best left to nature.

Being such a gorgeous bird in full breeding plumage, I felt naturally devastated, but seeing it diving and successfully eeking out a living, I felt it best to let it live out its remaining days in the wild, rather than having to be put to sleep by the RSPCA. A tragic ending but the first time I have ever been so close to this tiny and most delicate species - and a species I am particularly fond of, which share many similarities, habits and breeding locations of my other favourite - the outlawed North American Ruddy Duck.

The grebe was also in very close company with an early brood of 10 duckling Mallards, whilst the only other species of note were a singing male WILLOW WARBLER and 6 Linnets.

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