Sunday, 22 November 2015

College Lake: Great Northern Diver & Pintails

While an exhausted Great Skua battled a windy Wilstone last Sunday morning, I snoozed in blissful ignorance. This weekend, the windblown rarity had the good sense to wait until after midday before it was found at College Lake, giving me ample time to sleep and to assemble a vast array of winter woollies. Goodbye balmy 16°C November days; hello finger-freezing, -2°C, 40mph northwesterlies.

The adult Great Northern Diver was riding the waves towards the furtherest end of College Lake when I arrived at about 13:30. I scoped it from the hide nearest the visitors centre and then headed down to the Octagon hide for a closer view. The bird looked pretty lively and in good condition. It dived two or three times, snorkelled for fish and carefully preened its glistening, silvery-white belly, its back and its flight feathers. Unfortunately, it remained a good 350-400 metres away, meaning photos/video were rubbish (case in point, below).

Having spent an easy hour absorbed in Diver antics, I turned my attention to the marsh. Along with the GND, Rob A had found a male Goosander so I was keeping an eye out for that. Instead, I found a couple of Pintail ducks. Initial impressions, viewing into the sun, were of a scruffy male, still moulting out of eclipse, and a female. But, something didn’t sit right and I tied myself in countless knots before help arrived and the fly in my identification soup was plucked out. They were “first winter birds” of course.

I enjoyed the Diver but I learnt a lot more from untangling the features of immature Pintails!

College Lake from hide near visitors centre. Octagon hide circled, right. Great Northern Diver & Pintail pair record shots


  1. A few years ago now, a white throated diver turned up on the local town pond. I saw it, had no idea what it was, then a few days later the twitchers descended on it, and it made the papers!

    1. Strange birds turn up in the strangest of places, lol