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Red-Necked Grebe, Cheddar

Red-Necked Grebe

Similar to Friday’s tawny owl, this completes my set of the five British grebes for the year – a feat I did manage back in 1999. Red-necked is another bird not seen for years – this time the better part of five with one in the centre of Edinburgh at Duddingston Loch. Today’s bird was hard to find and I got lucky by persisting with a grebe I’d picked out as looking a ‘bit different’ to all the great crested dotting the reservoir.

It did seem dirtier, like a scruffy schoolboy who hasn’t washed his neck, and the neck itself… somehow bulkier and shorter. Compared with a nearby tufted duck the bird looked maybe smaller; a great crested would have been bigger. I was assessing all this with a zoom of about 40x on the old scope and the wind, ever present at reservoirs, wasn’t helping. Finally the grebe passed its larger cousin and all the differences were striking. It’s so easy when birds oblige by lining up field guide style.

Ho! Year bird 200. New bird for Somerset; in fact I’ve seen all the grebes within Somerset alone this year. Earlier I had passed quickly over a red-breasted merganser but that too was an addition to the county list. I had been hoping to add whooper swans but somehow dipped on them. How is that possible? Considerably larger than the other two and yet managing to hide.

Axbridge Reservoir from Cheddar Gorge

I could have been more determined but the wind… I must learn to put my gloves on before my fingers can complain. They gave me hell – that pins and needly numbness that doesn’t recede for a good hour once it starts. A warm coffee shop was the only antidote and I found one down in Wedmore on my way to dip on Shapwick’s great grey shrike. Still, I bagged a load of good stuff there, including only my second Somerset kingfisher. Nice.

My day ended with a contrived route back home through Cheddar Gorge. I’ve been around the world twice, seen the Grand Canyon and watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate – not really that one – but the Gorge is still a stunner. We’re so lucky in this area.

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