A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

Monday, 27 April 2015

Pied-billed Grebe in Gloucestershire

With news of a Pied-billed Grebe breaking in Gloucestershire early on the Friday morning, I left work an hour early and made the journey down to the South West in the hope of connecting that evening. The bird had been spotted floating on the Severn Estuary near Berkeley Powerstation where it had remained loyal to the spot for the whole day, relatively close to the shore and showing exceptionally well to onlookers during the high tide at midday.

After a walk of about a mile or so down the winding public footpath through the fields, I eventually arrived at the spot. Unfortunately, the now low tide meant the bird wasn’t as close as it had been previously, although I was just pleased that the grebe had stayed and I was able to connect! Initially difficult to pick out, the bird had actually left the water before I arrived and was sat resting on a sandbank, effectively camouflaged with the surrounding boulders and looking like a large pebble!
Pied-billed Grebe, Gloucestershire
Phonescoped record shot of the Pied-billed Grebe
It eventually perked up and waddled over to the water shuffling comically – it’s legs more suited to swimming and diving than for walking on land! The grebe then pottered around for the rest of my stay, diving occasionally and favouring the shelter of the seaweed and rocks around the sandbank.
Pied-billed Grebe, Gloucestershire
Looking fine in its spring plumage, the black band on the thick bill and the white circle around the eye were really distinctive through the scope, and it was great to finally catch up with a Pied-billed Grebe in the UK after not going for the long-staying Ham Wall male in 2013 or the local Manchester bird back in 2010 – despite going to Uni nearby!

With individuals found nearly every 2-3 years between 1975 and 2002, there was a relatively long gap of 8 years before the Manchester bird, although records annually every year since may indicate that this American vagrant is becoming more predicable again in its frequency of making it over to Britain.
Pied-billed Grebe, Gloucestershire
Looking exceptionally lost and out of place in the estuary on the Friday evening, it was no surprise that there was no sign the following morning, although I don’t think anyone could have predicted it would be refound from Lower Hide at Leighton Moss in Lancashire late on the Saturday afternoon! Night time migrants, the grebe had evidently undertaken a journey of nearly 170 miles from Gloucestershire to Lancashire during the night, following a straight line directly north and making landfall at the RSPB reserve – remarkable to imagine a small grebe completing such a feat!
Pied-billed Grebe flight map
Map showing the route taken by the grebe! (red line)
With a reputation of staying considerable amounts of time at a suitable site, and with great habitat and pools available at Leighton Moss, hopefully the grebe will stick around up north and enjoy its new home!

For anyone visiting, the grebe is reportedly favouring Lower Hide, which is accessed from the public footpath leading down from the road – although it occasionally ventures closer to Public Hide.

Special thanks to my mum for driving to Gloucestershire – we didn’t get back until gone half 12 due to the excessive roadworks that now seem to plague our motorways – although she did enjoy a delicious Beefeater tea of Gammon and Apple Crumble for her trouble!  

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