Come in Number 27

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I’d love you to assume that I decided to break out of my normal mould and shoot a high-key image today; but if you did, you’d be giving me undeserved credit.

Wanting to go out, but still struggling somewhat with the back injury, and quite nervous of driving too far, or tackling terrain that might aggravate it further, I decided to go for emotional irritation instead and visit the Cotswold Water Park. I’m constantly hearing great things about the CWP as a wildlife-spotting area, but I’ve never yet made a really satisfactory trip there; on the other hand, if you don’t try you’ll never succeed – so off I zoomed.

Research had pointed me in the direction of Pit 82, south of the village of Ashton Keynes, where a Great Northern Diver has been reported recently. Arriving in the car park, I bumped into a chap who looked as though he knew where he was going – and did, as it turned out, because he had the CWP app (there’s an app!!) – so I tagged along with him, and we trudged up the bridle path to Pit 82.

“This is the place,” he said, gesturing hopelessly beyond the high, thorny hedge lining the path, “but I don’t know how we’re going to find the Diver.” I looked in the direction he was pointing, did a double-take, said “It’s there!”, bent down to look underneath the hedge rather than through it, fired off three frames, and then (as the bird beat a steady retreat to the middle of the lake) looked at the back of the camera and realised that I hadn’t changed my settings since late yesterday afternoon, and I’d just shot at about a stop overexposed.

High-key is good though, right? Well, it will just have to be, because that’s the closest we got to the bird all afternoon. I’m really beginning to think that these divers have a sense of humour, because I’d swear it spent the next hour taunting us by spending most of the time submerged, and just occasionally bobbing up to the surface in some unexpected and distant place for a couple of seconds, before disappearing again. Truly, you have to laugh.

Great Northern Divers are larger and heavier birds than Black-throated Divers; despite the difference in perspective, if you compare this photo with yesterday’s you’ll see that the head and bill here are appreciably more imposing. Unlike Black-throated Divers, these birds are only ever seen as visitors to Britain from the Continent, and none actually breed in the UK. If anything, their breeding plumage is even more outrĂ©, and I’m furiously jealous of people in North America and northern Europe who can readily get to see it.

2019 birds:
22 Blackbird
23 Robin
24 Common buzzard
25 Red kite
26 Pheasant
27 Great northern diver
28 Carrion crow

(Plus any number of SKOGs – that is, Some Kind of Gull.)