Monday 18 May 2015

Breathtaking Black-throated Diver at Farmoor

Loons or Divers, whatever you call them, they are a pretty special group of birds. Just 5 in the genus, Gavia, with 4 of them occurring in Britain and Europe, according to Collins. When I think of a Diver in Britain, I think of remote lochs in far-flung Scotland, where the haunting, sonorous song of the bird skates across still waters.

I think of them in idyllic, isolated expanses of blue, gliding along the surface before effortlessly slipping beneath, swimming down in search of fish. They rise to the air so far from where they submerged you lose track of them.  I don’t think of concrete causeways, windsurfing, fishing boats and accessible public toilets. But that’s what we, and the seemingly marooned Black-throated Diver (Gavia arctica) had, at Farmoor reservoir on Saturday.

I’d never seen a Diver in Summer plumage. This bird was beautiful beyond description and the photographs don’t do it justice. The views through the scope were breathtaking. We were on site from about 11am until about 4pm. It really was a bird you could watch for hours and hours, marvelling at the intricate feather patterns contrasting with the dove grey head and the rainbow of colours in the iridescent, black throat.

In the morning, the bird spent a lot of time preening or at least trying to address an area on its belly. It was difficult to make out what exactly was going on but it looked like the bird had some sort of injury. During the afternoon, the bird was very placid, barely moving more than about 50 metres back and forth along the west bank. Its eyes were constantly closing and, in the whole time we were there, it never dived/fed. I don’t suppose there’s likely to be a happy ending, unfortunately.

On a brighter note, the summer plumage Dunlin and Sanderling were full of beans and also brilliant to watch.

Dunlin (Calidris alpina), Farmoor reservoir, 16 May 2015

Sanderling (Calidris alba), Famoor reservoir, 16 May 2015

From left to right: Sanderling, Dunlin, Dunlin



  1. The quality of these shots is fantastic. What beautiful birds! I particularly like the shot of the diver with his/her eyes shut. Lovely. From ARF

  2. And what a mystical song too! Wow! From ARF

  3. Awesome Lucy! Very Very Jealous!! I have seen one in Scotland, pre-camera days and it was a magical sight that I will never forget. Would love to have seen one this close and managed incredible images like this! What a stunner! The other shots are great too - lovely to see them in summer plumages! What a great day you had!

    1. Hi Martin, I can absolutely relate to your description of this species as "magical". My photos don't come anywhere near doing it justice but I was so pleased to have the opportunity to get them. Thanks for your lovely comments. The bird is still there today and may yet make it to the weekend, although I've no idea what condition it's in now. The Oxon birding site is good for updates (

    2. Thanks Lucy - I did a bit of research today and saw on another blog that it was diving - which sounds promising! Thought I might give it a try tomorrow. Haven't really been out since I saw you last week, went downhill again with that bug, but hopefully on the way back up now.Will check in the morning on your link - thank you!

  4. Great shots as ever Lucy - yes the diver didn't look too well when I saw it. They tried to catch it but not sure what happened in the end.


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