Sum plum stars at Farmoor Reservoir, Oxon – 14th May

When my plans for this morning fell through I was pleased to get an Oxonbirders’ text alert saying there was a Black-throated Diver at Farmoor Reservoir. I jumped into the car and went at once, this being a bird I have seen twice before but not in summer plumage. In the event I was the first local twitcher to arrive on site, and patch watchers Dai and Steve walking back along the central causeway told me the bird was diving close to one side of the famed concrete bank.

Rain having begun to fall on my arrival I had left my camera in the car and realised that in choosing to do so I had missed a good photo opportunity. Once company arrived and the bird drifted into the middle of F2 this error of judgement caused a few wry looks and the county bird recorder suggested I use a carrier bag in future. Very apt advice and why didn’t I think of that? We all watched the BTD for a while then Dai (who has a vehicle permit) returned to get the bird onto his dog Billy’s Farmoor list (see here). So he kindly ran me back to the car park where I swapped my scope for my camera (and carrier bag).

On my return the BTD was being watched close to the causeway hide. Once the others had returned to work or wherever they had to be, myself and one other birder who said he shouldn’t be here were left to watch the bird drifting first one way then the other close to the hide. I was then able to experiment with different camera settings and get what with my equipment were reasonable shots (above). At times the bird would stand up in the water and preen, behaviour I have not observed before.

In the past couple of weeks I have also noted with envy various county birders’ pictures of summer plumaged Sanderling at Farmoor. But whenever I dropped in there were none of this species present. Spotting one today on the opposite side of the causeway I added more reasonable results to my Farmoor waders’ gallery. As usual the sludge and detritus of the reservoir shoreline provided a subtle background to the subtler and delicate tones of this beautiful passage migrant.

Sanderling

Sanderling

I think I am right in saying the reaction of everyone who saw the BTD today was “cracking bird!” I can only agree on both species and all this was a most excellent way of passing a wet spring morning. The BTD remained at Farmoor for nine days but observers realised it had picked up an injury and wasn’t well. Sadly this bird was found dead on 23rd May.

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