Rare bird at Upton Warren

Friday 24th April 2015

Red-necked grebe (c) Vern WrightRed-necked grebe (c) Vern Wright

A bird that’s probably on its way to Scandinavia or Eastern Europe to breed dropped in at a Worcestershire nature reserve.

A red-necked grebe, in beautiful summer breeding plumage, arrived at The Moors pools at Upton Warren on Wednesday 22nd April. The nature reserve, owned by Worcestershire Wildlife Trust, is situated between Droitwich and Bromsgrove and features both saline and freshwater lakes and pools.

John Belsey, a volunteer warden at Upton Warren, explained “A small number of red-necked grebes overwinter in the UK and they pass through on their way to and from breeding grounds in spring and autumn. This is the first time we’ve ever seen one at Upton Warren and to have one in full summer breeding plumage is absolutely fantastic!

“On Wednesday there was only one other red-necked grebe being reported in the UK so we’re really honoured – and lucky – that this one chose Upton Warren.”

Elaborate courtship display

Red-necked grebe (c) Vern WrightRed-necked grebes prefer shallow bodies of water for breeding although they often over-winter in estuaries, bays and out at sea, including the UK. They dive for fish or take insects from the surface of the water; the bird at Upton Warren was making the most of freshly-hatching flies leaving the water.

The relatively dull winter plumage of white and smoky grey are replaced for their courtship and breeding by bright feathering.

The red-necked grebe’s closest relative is the great-crested grebe, common throughout the UK. They both have elaborate courtship displays that involve ‘dancing’ and offering vegetation to each other.

Upton Warren bittern channel (c) Andy HarrisThe bird at Upton Warren has been mainly making use of a new channel that has recently been cleared to help encourage bitterns to breed. The work was done with funding from Biffa Award, a multi-million pound environment fund that utilises landfill tax credits donated by Biffa Group Ltd through the Landfill Communities Fund.

John added “Around 300 people came to see it on Wednesday; they’re nocturnal migrants so we didn’t know whether it would still be here on Thursday. Visitors on Thursday got good views of it but there’s so far been no sighting of it today.

“It has been putting on a good display for visitors both in the new bittern channel – we’re thinking of calling it the red-necked grebe channel – and in front of the birdwatching hides.”

The Christopher Cadbury Wetland Reserve at Upton Warren is the county’s premier bird-watching nature reserve. It is open seven days a week and all visitors must either carry their membership card for admission or purchase a day permit (£3.00) from the Trust, volunteers on site or the Upton Warren Aztec Adventure Centre.