Wanstead Patchwork: Part I (The devil-diver of Wanstead Park)

A Big Birding Year was SO 2014. As a relatively new birder, I have set myself two birding-related resolutions for 2015:

1) To increase my ‘Life List’ of birds.
2) To intensify my understanding of the birdlife in a particular small area or ‘patch’ – in my case this is now the Wanstead Flats and surrounding parkland.

This morning I was delighted to be able to make progress against both.

A Slavonian Grebe (Horned Grebe if you are reading this from across the pond) – a rare-ish winter visitor to London – made an appearance in Wanstead Park yesterday and has kindly stayed long enough for me to take its picture:

Slavonian Grebe (Podiceps auritus)

Slavonian Grebe (Podiceps auritus)

Anyone lucky enough to see this beautiful bird (it is even more stunning in its summer plumage) will notice the red eyes. This feature, along with the horned feathers it has in the summer have led some to call it the devil-diver.

The Native American tribes of the Blackfoot have a legend that a trickster called ‘Old Man’ persuaded the ducks to close their eyes and dance. He killed them one by one. However, a small duck looked and saw this evil befalling his friends and so alerted them. This ‘duck’ was the Slavonian/Horned Grebe and became renowned for noticing trouble early.

I was pleased to notice the Slavonian Grebe early in the year so it could be added to my patch list, my UK year list, and my life list.

Here are a couple of maps with ‘X’ marking the spot on my patch where the grebe was to be found:

Thanks to Google Maps

Thanks to Google Maps

Thanks to Google Maps

Thanks to Google Maps

In case anyone is interested how my patch list is going following a couple of hours out this morning and about 20 minutes in the rain yesterday, here you go:

3 January
1) Feral Pigeon
2) Blackbird
3) Black-headed Gull
4) Blue Tit
5) Robin
6) Magpie
7) Carrion Crow
8) House Sparrow
9) Starling
10) Great Tit
11) Sparrowhawk
12) Wood Pigeon
13) Jay

4 January
14) Ring-necked Parakeet
15) Song Thrush (note that it took me months to photograph a Song Thrush last year)
16) Long-tailed Tit
17) Mute Swan
18) Wren
19) Canada Goose
20) Gadwall (very large numbers of Gadwall on the lakes around Wanstead)
21) Mallard
22) Coot
23) Tufted Duck
24) Great Crested Grebe
25) Pochard
26) Wigeon
27) Great Spotted Woodpecker
28) Moorhen
29) Common Gull
30) Shoveler
31) Cormorant
32) Grey Heron
33) Slavonian Grebe
34) Greylag Goose


6 thoughts on “Wanstead Patchwork: Part I (The devil-diver of Wanstead Park)

  1. Pingback: Wanstead Patchwork: Part I (The devil-diver of Wanstead Park) | Project 10000

  2. wildlifewatcher

    What a nice photo of that grebe. I think the grebes are fairly hard to photograph because they unpredictably dive just when you think you may have a good picture ready to snap. Have a very nice coming week!

    1. iago80 Post author

      Thanks vey much. Yes – I was delighted to get so close to a rare bird – especially as it was a historical first for my patch (in over a century of careful record keeping).


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