A Black And White Matter

The other Black-necked Grebe I found locally (picture by Cliff Raby)

I will get round to Foula reflections. I will also write up my green birding jaunt to St Bees at the weekend. I might also do something on my friend Nick’s amazing find of a British bird a long way from home last week. For now though I am getting back into the swing of things with a good bird close to home.

I wasn’t going to go birding yesterday as Jane hasn’t been well, but she wanted some air so we went to Myerscough Quarry so I could at least do the monthly wildfowl count and feel useful. If you aren’t familiar with MQ it’s a number of pits near the Lancaster Canal south of Myerscough College. There are five or six pits but you can’t get to most of them without disturbing birds on the main two expanses so I only ever look over these.

I wasn’t expecting a lot but there was enough to keep me absorbed. Among the usual suspects a Kingfisher was energetically fishing, and a Common Sandpiper skitted round the margins of Pit 1. There were a couple of hundred birds on Pit 2, and whilst these were mostly Mallard and Canada Geese it was good to have something to work through.

Heading back past Pit 1 I gave it one last scan and my eye rested on a grebe. Why isn’t that Little Grebe a Black-necked Grebe I thought to myself. I couldn’t answer that question satisfactorily before it flew out of sight behind an island, but as it did so it showed contrasting white flashes in the wing that were intriguing.

After a bit of cat and mouse I eventually realised the bird had reappeared from the shadows, and clearly was a Black-necked Grebe. It’s still there today and has proved very popular with Fylde birders starved of any excitement since Barry Dyson had a Bee-eater in mid May.

Black-necked Grebes aren’t annual on the Fylde, and average a couple of records in Lancashire as a whole these days. So however you look at it it’s a good bird to see locally. But the whole experience was undoubtedly enhanced by the fact that the whole encounter was completely unexpected. I had put no pressure on myself to find anything, which made it all the sweeter when I did.

Which takes me to the other Black-necked Grebe I found in these parts. In early May 2018 I had dropped Jane at work at the college in Bispham. I stopped more in hope than in expectation at a small lake on the Kincraig housing estate. I was blessed that day as an absolutely stunning BNG had arrived there and proceeded to cruise past me at close range.

This week’s bird looks like a juvenile, and is probably dispersing from the only colony in the north west at Woolston Eyes nature reserve in Cheshire. In many ways it’s a colourless bird and couldn’t be more of a contrast to the 2018 bird. But both will be equally memorable for me because they were pleasantly unexpected.

This week’s bird, hopefully better pictures will come to light from others

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