After last weekend’s dismal bird-watching dip-a-thon, at Staines Reservoir, I decided to try again to see the reported Great Northern Diver, Slavonian and Black-Necked Grebes, Mediterranean Gull and Scaup. I surely couldn’t draw a blank for the second week running, could I?
Staines is about ten miles from my nearest station, but unfathomably it took me two hours to get there using those wonderful rail-replacement bus services that train companies love to inflict on the Sunday adventurer. Ironically, I think I could almost have arrived quicker if I had walked at a swift pace – It would have saved me £8.20 and worked wonders for my calves.
On arrival at the Reservoir, I was dismayed to see that the gate was locked. I had spent half a morning merrily cursing rail improvement works and was unable to get to my final destination. I rattled the chain and padlock ensemble in a desperate attempt to see if it would unlock… It didn’t. I rattled it again, just in case I hadn’t jiggled it sufficiently to open it during try number one. Surprisingly, it still didn’t unlock. How did Houdini do it?
It was then it dawned on me that there was another gate just three feet to the left – The gate I had used to get into the Reservoir just a week ago. What an idiot… But, at least no-one will ever know about it.
As I made my way to the causeway between the North and South basins, the wind was blowing relentlessly, causing significant waves across the Reservoir’s surface. It was just like a traditional day at the British seaside – minus donkeys, bathing suits, beach huts, ice cream and the fact that I was a good fifty miles (probably six and a half days by train) away from the nearest beach… So, in actual fact, nothing like a traditional day at the British seaside.
I can’t open padlocks without a key and can’t conjure up a good simile when required, so there’s really not much hope for me… If I’m honest, it’s probably not actually a simile either, is it?
Before I had even got my binoculars out of my bag, I noticed a Great Northern Diver bobbing around in the choppy water about thirty or so yards away. Excellent! The only time I have ever seen one of these before it was so far away, I almost needed to use the Hubble Telescope to catch a good view of it – I obviously didn’t have access to the Hubble Telescope and apparently you cannot book it, so it remained a grey and white blob in the distance.
Great Northern Divers are known as the Common Loon in North America. This is an apparent reference to their clumsiness on land – Their legs are so far back on their bodies that they are too front heavy to walk anywhere with any sort of elan. They are excellent for propulsion in water, though, and can dive to depths of approximately two-hundred feet in search of dinner.
They are usually winter visitors (mainly from their breeding grounds around Iceland) to the UK.
A quick wander up and down the causeway revealed no other new birds for the year, although last week’s male Goldeneye had been joined by a female acquaintance and a group of Wigeons sat a nice distance away for watching.
I did see a small grebe, that initially got me thinking it might be of the Slavonian or Black-Necked variety, but it was just wishful thinking as it was a Little Grebe – a bird that looks nothing like the other two in terms of colour.
I contemplated returning to Staines Moor in search of a Short-Eared Owl, but, given the length of time it took me to get to Staines, thought better of it – I did have work in eighteen hours’ time after all and didn’t want to risk being late.
My Bird Board total for 2014 now stands at EIGHTY-NINE – If you like numbered lists of birds, check it out by clicking the tab at the top of the page…