28 September 2011

The unexpected lifer

In the dying hour of a glorious late September day I rushed to Napton Reservoir to see if I could finally set eyes on the long-staying black-necked grebe.

The good news is that I did, the finding made considerably easier for the fact that it was a) less than 10 yards from the shore, and b) enjoying the admiring attention of three birders from Nuneaton.

The grebe was beautiful despite its winter plumage, the red eyes being its most striking feature. Sadly a quick stroll around the water turned up nothing else remarkable, the best being half a dozen pochard, a few skylarks and yellowhammers here and there, and even a little flock of linnets which I don't see nearly often enough.

Napton Hill was all but silent, so I returned home to attend to the blog... only to discover that the black-necked grebe was my first lifer in more than than a year, something I had completely failed to realise. And what is more, it was one which I predicted back in 2006 might turn up at Napton - see here for My Secret Patch Wishlist.

Don't you just love it when a plan comes together, albeit somewhat belatedly and unintentionally!

26 September 2011

The hallmarks of autumn

One by one the hallmarks of autumn have been falling into place.

The first sign of the season was very punctual indeed. On September 1st I drew open the curtains at the back of my house to catch sight of the season's first early morning mist.

As if alerted by this starting gun, little pockets of swallows and house martins started to gather here, there and everywhere - small fast-feeding families low over river, lake or meadow, preparing for the long journey ahead.

As I gathered the apple harvest in my garden just a few days later I was joined by a handful of juvenile chiffchaffs. These are a regular find in my garden at this time of year, but almost never at any other.

Elsewhere t'internet is full of news of exotic migrant waders and seabirds at hotspots like the nearby Draycote Reservoir (including several manx shearwaters, which I would greatly have liked to have seen). Even litle Napton Reservoir has played host to a black necked grebe for the last couple of weeks.

As the weather has slowly worsened, the temperature of the the water has also dropped notably. This makes the fishing unreliable at best, and without a warming sun it becomes almost impossible to spot the chub in the litte streams I stroll along most lunchtimes.

And of course the darkness, the only bit of winter I truly dislike, draws inexorably nearer - sunset is 7.15pm at the moment and retreating at a rate of knots.