Saturday, 11 January 2014

Brixham Twitch

We (James M and I) have wanted to pay a visit to the White-billed Diver for several weeks, but work, weather and other things kept getting in the way.  Last Tuesday though, after a painfully congested drive down, through some scarily intense rain, we arrived at our destination...

Although all looks calm and tranquil, there was a pretty strong SW wind blowing

Within minutes we were shocked at the quality of birding.  Let's be honest, divers are usually 'telescope birds', but no need for a scope here for much of the time!  It was like being in a foreign country, with Great Northerns and Black-throats swimming around the harbour like its an every day occurrence! Just amazing stuff...

Great Northern Diver - one of about 25 in the harbour!

Black-throated Divers - saw about half a dozen of these

And then of course there was the star bird, which appeared just inside the entrance to the inner harbour soon after our arrival...

Next to the GBBG

It quickly (and it really could move under water!) came closer though...
 




And then EVEN closer....






What a superb bird!  I saw the Hayle bird which really was a highlight in my birding life, but this was even better!  Obviously its whopping ivory bill really is striking, but so is the whole feel and shape of the bird.  Great Northern Divers are big, but this is bigger, and chunkier, and seemed to swim and move about with real power and ease. And it really did give point blank views as it fed along this channel...

Welcome to Brixham indeed!

This photo was taken when it had swam quite some distance away from us...

Yep, that's the White-billed Diver!

With a couple of Red-throated Divers further in Torbay, it was a 'four diver day' for us!  Then there were the grebes.  Although we missed the Red-necked that was showing inside the marina, we had one just around the corner from the AstraZeneca. Also from here, a Slavonian Grebe flew in and landed close in, and later two Black-necked Grebes drifted in and then back out of the harbour...

Distant photo - but the distinctive 'fluffy bum' shape still obvious

Also from the AstraZeneca car park we saw the lingering Iceland Gull, we never got close to it but still had good views.  It's a stunning bird, but did seem a bit dim! All the other gulls were following fishermen, or swimming around just off the shore, but the Iceland Gull spent the entire time circling the same white bouy just staring at it! I guess it was feeding, but it just seemed a bit 'Tim nice but dim' to me!

Sadly we had to get a move on, as I was working in the afternoon, but we couldn't resist the Decoy Lake drake Scaup on the way home. In reality it wasn't quite as exciting as it should have been, as it spent the entire time asleep and partially hidden underneath vegetation on the far bank, next to a drake Gadwall.  Here we were also hoping to make our three grebe day into a five grebe day, and soon enough a Great Crested Grebe popped up. The hunt for Little Grebe failed to fined any, but two Black-necked Grebes were somewhat of a surprise!  I didn't manage any photos of them as they stayed on the far side, but the local attention they attracted ensured there are some photos other places, namely here... http://teignbirds.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/thanks-for-grebes-steve.html

All we wanted now was a Little Grebe. And it took a drive alongside the Axe once home to find one, and it really took some finding in the rough conditions. We managed it though, four diver species and five grebe species in a day - if only a Pied-billed Grebe was somewhere in the south west we would have had every diver and grebe species on the British list in a day! 

So another twitch - and the perfect twitch too!  Got the bird within minutes and saw a very impressive back up cast all showing really well. A very enjoyable twitch.

As always though, it's not just about the birds.  It was great to meet the White-billeds finder, Bill Macdonald, who gave a face to face account of how exciting this find was!  Thanks for the help Bill, pointing us to the right sites for the right birds.  Also thanks to Mike Langman who kindly dropped us a line as we were making our way down, helping us connect with the birds and informing us exactly where to park (and for free!). Also, thanks Mike for quickly spreading the news of the Decoy Black-necked Grebes to all interested parties on our behalf. Lastly, thanks to James M, who is officially my twitching companion, and acted as chauffeur for the day.

Gotta get out and do some patch birding now, hopefully will actually see some birds too...

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