19th July marked the marathon journey back home to Aberdeen after three weeks away. As the journey was completed over 2 days by car, I was given the opportunity to visit Frampton Marsh RSPB in Lincolnshire so as to break up the journey; much more appealing than stopping off at a tacky service station. The reserve is conveniently a few miles off the main A17 road, so we didn’t have to go very far out of our way to get there. Frampton Marsh was a reserve I’d always wanted to visit, and it lived up to its fame as a great reserve for the hour or so I was there. A nice starting bonus on the way down to the reserve was a Yellow Wagtail flicking across the road in front of the car, my first of the year. It’s always special to come across Yellow Wags, not only because they are declining nationwide but also because you don’t see them year on year in NE Scotland (where they are a scarce but annual passage migrant), thus its not often I get the pleasure of seeing them.
This was the start of a productive and very worthwhile visit to Frampton. I stationed myself at 360 Hide, which as the name suggests impressively allows for 360° views of the different pools and scrapes on the reserve, and at very close quarters.I had come to the reserve with the hope of connecting with a long staying summer plumaged Black-necked Grebe, a bogey bird of mine. I found out when I arrived that it hadn’t been seen for a couple of days. 25 minutes passed with no result despite scanning all of the scrapes, and with time trickling away I became confident that the bird in question simply wasn’t on the reserve. Instead I decided to turn my attention to a group of waders that by some vegetation at the back of the southern scrape, new in since I had arrived. As soon as I trained the scope on the waders I caught a glimpse of something diving to the left of them just in front of the vegetation. I casually presumed it was one of the numerous Little Grebes, but was delighted to be proved wrong as it emerged and revealed itself to be the summer plumaged Black-necked Grebe.
All previous tension duly alleviated; it was a great moment to clap eyes on this species for the first time. Far more intense a feeling though was of overwhelming admiration for the bird in question. What an outstandingly beautiful bird it was, in my eyes the most exquisite of the grebes in summer plumage. For me, the contrast between the jet black head and neck and the golden, delicately plumed ear coverts make Black-necked Grebes look that little bit more fantastic than sumplum Slavonian Grebe with their extensive punk hairdos. This particular individual was starting to moult into winter plumage so was a little dingy around the flanks (rufuous mottling here was not extensive as on a full sumplum) , but overall it still looked stunning.
As it had clearly just emerged from the vegetation, it was at first quite distant. Eventually it came within 50ft of the hide and associated with a few Tufted Ducks, at which stage I was able to make the most of it. This also gave me the opportunity to get a range of digiscoped and DSLR shots, but this was difficult as it was continuously diving and didn’t come any closer. What a superb bird though; I didn’t think my first Black-necked Grebe would be in sumplum. Retrospectively, that makes the occasion all the more memorable.
There were other birds of interest around. Amongst the group of newly arrived waders (mainly Lapwings) were 50+ Black-tailed Godwits and 30 Dunlins, whilst a few Ruff and Avocets were also scattered around. 6 Great Crested Grebes included a downy young bird, whilst a Little Egret was foraging within a few feet of the hide. The walkways were heaving with Acros, namely 15+ Reed Warblers and 5 Sedge Warblers, most affording great views right by the path. I didn’t have time to have a look over The Wash, where undoubtedly hundreds more waders were. Nonetheless, the short detour to this fantastic reserve was well worth it; I’ll definitely be going back.
Thanks for reading,