Your Birding Month
Our five birds to find in August include Tree Sparrow and Crossbill
THERE ARE FIVE species of grebe which regularly occur in the UK, all of which may attempt to breed. The Great Crested and Little Grebes are common and very widespread. Slavonian Grebes are scarce Highland nesters, and Red-necked Grebes have occasionally attempted, but rarely succeeded, in breeding. The gorgeous Black-necked Grebe fits into the scarce but regular category, with probably fewer than 40 pairs breeding across the whole country. The tiny breeding population is widely scattered but with a general trend of being along the central spine of England. They favour shallow eutrophic lakes with lots of vegetation to hide in, both around edge and floating on the surface. They are frequently associated with Black-headed Gull colonies. For obvious reasons, most breeding sites in the UK are wisely kept secret. However, Woolston Eyes, Cheshire, is well known for them and is the site to visit if you want to see breeding Black-necked Grebes in action. In May 2014, for example, there were perhaps 11 pairs there, which raised at least 15 fledging young. In winter, when they are more widespread, though still scarce around our coasts, they are essentially black and white birds. But in the summer, they are simply gorgeous in their finery of black and chestnut with a glorious splash of golden feathering on their cheeks. So, now is the best time to appreciate one of our most handsome breeding birds.