It's rare for me to be tempted to go long distances for a bird, but with the ultra smart Red-necked Grebe returning for a 3rd year running in summer plumage to Farmoor Reservoir near Oxford, the temptation was too much. I would like to thank Ewan Urquhart from Oxford for confirming the bird was still there and for showing us around on the Friday. Picking Pete up at 6am (the middle of the night)!! the traffic was not too bad and we arrived well ahead of the time we were meeting up with Ewan so we walked around to where the bird was expected to be. On the way we saw some splendid summer plumaged Great-crested Grebes and several groups of Tufted Duck.
Tufted Duck Pair.
Great-crested Grebe making waves.
There was no doubt though that the star of the show was the superb Red-necked Grebe. This bird is probably the least seen of the regular Grebes and even more so in its breeding plumage. I was hoping that the bird would come much closer than it did but eventually I managed a few reasonable shots as it regularly dived to catch Sticklebacks or occasionally catch small flies from the top of the water. The bird will very shortly be leaving for its breeding area, possibly in Scandinavia or Russia.
Red-necked Grebe with Stickleback lunch.
When Ewan arrived we soon headed for another part of the reservoir where 2 Great-northern Divers have spent the Winter. Unfortunately we only saw one of these and that one was well out in the middle. However, we did see the first reported Common Tern of the year on the reservoir. Also whilst Ewan was taking a business call I spotted in the distance a Hobby chasing a smaller bird. This was my 2nd Hobby of the year and was I believe the 1st record this year in Oxfordshire.
Ewan then suggested we head for Otmoor RSPB reserve. Although he couldn't spare the time to stay with us we followed him there so we wouldn't get lost. Just after he left us I spotted a pair of Common Toads walking across the car park. This gave us the opportunity to get some great photos of them, without the macro lenses we had to use the telephotos but this worked very well.
Is the male falling asleep??
That's what you call getting a lift!!
Following this it was the dreaded long drive home with every car in the South-east being on the M25 around Heathrow. However, it could have been a lot worse as the traffic did clear for most of the remaining trip. My thanks to Ewan for giving up his time to help us see so much. It really was a great day.