On Friday I received news from Alastair Gray through the Sussex Ornithological Society’s sighting page that a Great Northern Diver had been spotted on Weir Wood Reservoir, a patch tick for him. It was late in the evening so I couldn’t do anything about it just then, but on Saturday morning I persuaded my mum to drive me there.
Our first stop was the West end, where most of the bird action usually is. We arrived first but soon other birders had come to have a look too. Unfortunately after some hopeless 45 minutes scanning the water with our scopes, we decided that it wasn’t here. It was a tense 3/4 of an hour: every Cormorant (there are lots of them) gave us false hope. The only birds of note were a dozen Gadwall, and a Marsh Tit on the feeders.
I was about to give up when I heard the other birders suggesting going to the East end, which is even more exposed. I followed them and we faced a chilly uphill walk to the bank of the reservoir near the sailing club. The wind was so bad that the water mimicked the sea off Brighton Pier on a bad day! Again we scanned the water but nothing was to be seen, we were losing hope once more. However, someone spotted the diver, far off. Too far off for my telescope to even see! Thankfully one of the other birders showed it to me before he left. It wasn’t a very impressive view of an otherwise majestic bird, but it made the trip worthwhile.
Great Northern Divers, also known as the Great Northern Loon or Common Loon in North America, is a member of the genus Gavia, the symbol of Minnesota; the provincial bird of Ontario; and foreign exchange dealers’ name for the Canadian dollar: the Loony because it appears on the country’s notes. The birds are related to grebes and are very powerful swimmers. They breed in Great Britain but usually only in the north, they winter further south but are mainly coastal in winter. That makes this bird at Weir W0od Reservoir, a very inland site, a very special bird.