Friday 9 January 2015

Wanstead Water Witch

After several days of patch birding, a day out at Wallasea and of course, after all the new year celebrations, the third was intended as a day in.  These intentions however were very much gone by the afternoon. As I absent-mindedly scrolled through an endless stream of tweets, I saw a report from Wanstead of a Black-necked Grebe. A 'wow' was uttered. Hmm, Black-necked Grebe, a local mega, just a twenty minute walk away... what to do, what to do? Don't you just hate these hard decisions? Well, a few things came up, but an hour later I decided to try and see it in what remained of the  daylight.  Not that it was ever really light that day - a particularly gloomy winters day. But by now the reports had changed, it was re-identified as a Slavonian Grebe. My enthusiasm was not hindered, Slav Grebe is an equally incredible bird locally.
 Initial views after reaching the park were pretty distant, but it was there, standing out with its bright red eye and white flanks. Apparently it had been showing close-in earlier on, so we hung around for a bit. Eventually, after coming under the hassle of Black-headed Gulls, it began to work its way towards us. To cut a relatively short story shorter, it came to within just about 10 foot away, where, after realising I'd set the focus limiter to 8.5 metres, I managed a few noisy images.

I wasn't quite happy with the shot, so duly the next morning it was back to Wanstead. Again the light was rather, well, horrible, and the Slav didn't show quite as well.  Having a limited amount of time to spend there I had to leave with nothing better than the previous days'.
 But yes!  Luck was with me - makes a change- and the grebe was still there come Thursday. So this morning I went back for thirds, and with some actual light!
 Ah, but now it had decided to be tricky. Finding it took a small while, and getting close to it took near on an hour.  It eventually got settled in under some fallen trees, where lurked an astounding abundance of small fish. Despite often prolonged close views, getting a clear shot wasn't easy, and when there weren't branches in the way it was either just too far for a shot or in the shade.  Thankfully, there was one lucky moment where it suddenly popped up in good light and close. I got a couple of frames and then it was under again.

A fantastic little bird, I mean look at that eye! A first for the park, and a lot easier to connect with than the last Wanstead mega I got.
 Now, if only it would come to the patch....

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