When I was about nine, I went on a family holiday to Scotland. This happened to be in an area which was reputed to be good for black-throated divers, so Dad – being a keen birdwatcher – was eager to see one.
We trailed off up a remote track to a loch where they were meant to be – only to discover that Dad had read the map wrong, and we got nowhere near. Mum, who had been driving, was Not Happy.
Later, parking by the side of a large loch, Mum – ignorant of the habits of divers – said to Dad, “I don’t know why you don’t look somewhere like here – and what’s that over there?”. Dad suddenly became transfixed: “Good heavens, it’s a black-throated diver!”. He had excellent views, and was enraptured by what he saw.
Being nine, I was unimpressed – but the event stuck in my mind. Thus, when a wintering juvenile black-throated diver arrived at Chew Valley Lake (south of Bristol) in November, and stayed put for a few weeks, I decided that I had to go down to see it.
I arrived at Woodford Lodge, happened to see a couple of birders by the lakeside, and asked where the diver could be seen. Although I knew the general area it was likely to be, I was surprised when one of them said “Right here, and there it is, between the pontoon and the fishing net”!
Over the next couple of hours I waited and watched as it patrolled about 30m beyond the shore, constantly diving for food. At first the weather was fine and sunny, but as the sun was often directly behind the bird, it was less than ideal – but then it became overcast and windy, which is not normally good for bird photography but on this occasion was a definite improvement.
The wintering plumage of these divers is less dramatic than in spring – hence the lack of a black throat. I may therefore have to head up north at some point next year…