Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Black-necked grebes

On Saturday the 6th April there was a break in the cold weather and sunshine was seen again.

I went to Woolhampton Gravel pits near Aldermaston (West Berkshire) to look for the trio of Black-necked grebes that are present on the Rowney Predator lake (The first large lake from the car park at the Row Barge pub). They were very easy to locate in the eastern corner of the lake. Two of the birds were in full breeding plumage and appear to be a pair as they were witnessed performing the start of their courtship display and regularly called to each other. Therefore there is a chance that they could breed. This would be very signifcant as they have not bred in Berkshire for a long time and there are only around 40-60 pairs that nest in UK as a whole.

I had a look around the other side of the lake and had sightings of red fox, shelduck, little egret and a pair of little-ringed plovers. Little ringed plover is a species suffering from the reduction of gravel extraction in the Thames basin. Most of the exsisting gravel pits are now filled in and any open shingle has succeded to scrub. However natural habitat for this species would have always been low in Berkshire. Singing chiffchaff and a brimstone butterfly were reminders that spring might come one day.

Decoy Heath BBOWT Reserve is not far from Woolhampton and is one of my favourite sites for watching reptiles in Berkshire. In a 30 minute search I found 4 male adders basking around the site, but no common lizards which was a suprise. The site also supports slow worms and grass snakes. (For more recent pictures look at my flickr account: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ian_loyd_wildlife/sets