An early start at our local patch at Holmethorpe Sand Pits proved a wise decision.
Arriving at 6.45 a.m., it was hardly light enough to see anything, so I waited at the Water Colour lagoons for the sun to lighten the sky but there wasn’t much about, apart from 600+ Starlings that left their roost in the bushes by one of the lagoons, so I headed for Mercers Lake.
I went to the western end and immediately noticed a small grebe close in to the bank.
To my surprise, it was a BLACK-NECKED GREBE, possibly a winter-plumaged adult but there was a tinge of buff on the cheeks that indicate that it was possibly a first-winter bird.
This is only the sixth record for Holmethorpe Sand Pits, the last being in April 2000.
I had arranged to meet Gordon Hay, but he had yet to arrive and so, as the grebe had headed towards the north bank of the lake, I headed round the perimeter path but failed to relocate it.
Shortly afterwards, Gordon rang and asked me where I was and I told him what I had found and, as I headed back to the western end, he joined me.
It must have taken a good 20 minutes to relocate the grebe, which was now quite distant and in the middle of the lake.
Gordon phoned Paul who soon joined us, as he had been birding further to the east at Spynes Mere. By now the grebe was heading back towards us and we had reasonable views of it, although the light was still not particularly good for getting photos.
After a while we headed round the lake and spent some time at Mercers West Pit and Spynes Mere before Gordon and I headed across Mercers Farm to take a look at the huge Linnet flock of over 1000 birds that had appeared. Paul had to head home but, when he reached Mercers Lake, he phoned us to say that the Black-necked Grebe was still showing well in the middle of the lake.
Gordon and I headed back but by now there were dinghies out on the lake and we failed to spot the grebe. We hoped that it had just hidden itself under the overhanging bushes somewhere, but it wasn’t subsequently found so, presumably, it had flown off.
Other birds noted were 3 Kingfishers at Mercers Lake, 71 Redwings over, 10 Siskins over, a Grey Wagtail, one Lesser Redpoll, a Blackcap and a Chiffchaff, a Treecreeper and a Goldcrest, a male Wigeon and 28 Gadwall, around 25 Skylarks heading west, a couple of Yellowhammers at Mercers Farm along with one Little Owl.
Graham, Paul & Gordon