Divers, Grebes, Herons

GREAT NORTHERN DIVER  Gavia immer  Rare winter visitor

1991  An adult was at Fewston Resrvoir from at least 11th December during a speill of very cold weather. It was later reported on 22nd but was later found dead. On 13th, the bird was seen repeatedly diving and surfacing through ice up to 6mm thick while swimming beneath thicker ice.
1999  An adult bird was present at Otley Gravel Pits in November, from 13th to at least 28th. The bird was in summer/breeding plumage, but had started to moult during its stay.
2002  A first-winter bird was found at Leeming Reservoir on 31st October. It spent most of the next two days at Leeshaw Reservoir, before moving to Lower Laithe Reservoir and remained there until 3rd December.
2014  A bird visited Warley Moor Reservoir (Fly Flatts) on the unlikely date of 9th July and stayed for at least two days. The bird was thought to be the same one that spent several months at Lady Lake, Sands Lane, Mirfield. Close observation showed that it was only in partial breeding plumage and it was thought to be either injured or ill.
BLACK-THROATED DIVER  Gavia arctica  Rare winter visitor

1997  The bird providing the Group’s first-ever record for this species was first located at Leeshaw Reservoir during the morning of 3rd March. After being watched for a while it took off and, after circling, headed south-west. It was relocated approximately 2 km away at Leeming Reservoir during the afternoon; after a short while it moved on again, this time to nearby Thornton Moor Reservoir. From there, it moved to adjacent Stubden Reservoir, where it was still present at first light the next morning, although it had disappeared when looked for again mid-morning.  There were no further sightings until what is presumed to be the same bird was reported from Ogden Reservoir on 22nd March. This time the bird was much more settled and remained here until 1st May, giving rise to several reports from local birders. During this time a fish hook with line attached could be seen fixed to its gape, but whilst appearing distressed in the early days it soon appeared to be able to fish without hindrance. A bird recorded at Thornton Moor Reservoir on 27th April was considered to be the same individual.
2001  Only the Group’s second record of this species, this first-winter bird was found at Elland on 21st January. It subsequently followed the movements of the 1997 bird, appearing at Leeshaw Reservoir at 14:15 on 24th January and staying for three days before moving up to Leeming Reservoir on 27th. It was last recorded at Lower Laithe Reservoir on 31st January.
RED-THROATED DIVER Gavia stellata   Rare winter and passage visitor

1992  A single bird was closely observed at Ogden Reservoir on 13th December.
1996  The Group’s second record of this species came from Swinsty Reservoir – a first winter bird, which was discovered on 20th January and recorded daily until February when the reservoir was partly frozen.
2004  The third ever sighting within the Group’s recording area came from Fewston Reservoir on 29th September
2005  A bird seen flying south over Denholme Clough on 2nd October provides a record for the second successive year, and is the fourth in all. Unfortunately, like the other recent record, it played to only a small but receptive audience.
2008  A grounded bird found near Embsay was transferred to the nearby reservoir, where it was watched from 21st March to 6th April.
2009  A bird at Swinsty Reservoir from 18th to 23rd April becomes the sixth Group record.
2011  A bird flew over Timble Ings on 15th January. The seventh Group record.
2012  A bird discovered at Lindley Wood Reservoir on 13th February was an excellent find, being only the eighth Group record.
2015  On 21st March, a bird circled the reservoir at Warley Moor (Fly Flatts) before flying away to the south-west. This was the first sighting since 2012 and the ninth Group record.
SLAVONIAN GREBE   Podiceps auritus   Rare winter and passage visitor

1987  One at Chelker Reservoir from13th December to the year’s end was seen by many members. Possibly the same bird was present from 6th December when an unusual Grebe was seen.
1988  The bird at Chelker Reservoir from December 1987 remained until 4th January. A second bird, in partial summer plumage, was found at Otley Gravel Pits on 9th April and stayed until 11th April.
1989  A single was found at Swinsty Reservoir on 29th October during a Group trip. As is often the case with grebes, it was a one-day bird only.
1992  An adult in full summer plumage was present at Beaver Dyke Reservoir from 30th May to 11th August.
1994  A single at Silsden Reservoir on 7th October was the first recorded for over two years.
1996  An excellent year, with a single bird at Elland Gravel Pits on 2nd February which was joined by a second bird later the same day. These two birds were still present the next morning, but sadly the freezing conditions forced them to move on. On the next day a first-winter bird was found at Otley Gravel Pits, where it remained until at least 30th March; presumably this was the same bird that on 1st April spent the day at nearby Knotford Nook before returning to Otley Gravel Pits, where it was seen from 5th to 8th April. This well-watched bird began to show the very first signs of changing from its winter plumage on 7th April.
1997  A bird which spent the day at Ogden Reservoir on 10th January was one of a number that arrived in the country at this time, doubtless as a result of harsh weather on the continent.
2004  A moulting adult was found on Leeming Reservoir, Oxenhope, on 23rd October. For many it was quite confiding. This was the Group’s first record since 1998 and only the eighth in all.
2013  A well-watched adult bird spent over two weeks at Knotford Nook in January. It was first reported on the 26th, the first since a moulting adult on Leeming Reservoir in 2004. Only the ninth record.
Slavonian Grebe at Knotford Nook, January 2013.    photo: Stephen Lilley
Black-necked Grebe                                       photo: Brian Vickers
BLACK-NECKED GREBE    Podiceps nigricollis    Scarce autumn/spring visitor

1988  A bird at Knotford Nook on 30th September had left by dawn the following morning.
1990  A pair in breeding plumage was at Knotford Nook on 7th April.
1995  A superb summer-plumaged adult was seen at Otley Gravel Pits on 15th and 16th May.
1997  A juvenile bird which was found at Lindley Wood Reservoir on 14th August sadly only stayed around until the next day.
1999  A juvenile/first-winter bird was present at Otley Gravel Pits on the evening of 21st August, but poor light conditions prevented the bird from being identified until the following day; this bird was still present at this site until 27th August at least.
2000  An adult in full breeding plumage was present at Otley Gravel Pits on 14th and 15th April.
2009  One was present at Otley Wetland from 23rd November to at least 14th December . Only the seventh record and the first since 2000.
2013 A single bird, in winter plumage, was seen at Otley Wetland on 12th January, making this the eighth recorded sighting and the first since 2009.
FULMAR Fulmarus   glacialis   Rare visitor
1990  A grounded bird seen at close range at Otley Gravel Pits on the evening of 12th September was still present early next morning but soon disappeared.
1993  An unusual record was submitted of one at Skibden Quarry on 19th April.

STORM PETREL   Hydrobates pelagicus   Scarce vagrant
2006  The Group’s first, and altogether remarkable, record (accepted by the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union) concerns a bird seen for several hours at very close range at Fewston Reservoir on 22nd June (PCu). This is, in itself, a most unusual date for a bird whose rare inland appearances are usually in spring or autumn.

GANNET Morus hassanus   Scarce vagrant
1991  A party of three, an adult and two immatures, flew east over Stockbridge on 13th April.
1993  Two adults were observed on 16th November over Kildwick. They then circled over Crosshills before leaving to the north-west.
1997  A juvenile bird was discovered on the roadway at Kex Gill Quarry on 18th September.
2001  A single bird, seen in almost the same locality as the 1993 birds and by the same observer, was watched in the early morning of 29th October. This was a dark first-year bird, watched from the towpath of the Leeds and Liverpool canal near Farnhill Hall, as it flew north-west up the Aire Valley.
2008  Only the fifth record, a juvenile bird was at Otley Wetland on 20th September.
2010  An unprecedented two birds in one year, both in September, produced the Group’s sixth and seventh records. On the 2nd a bird was picked up from the road in Thornton, and taken into care by the RSPCA, and on the 26th another was photographed flying over Caldene Fields.
2013  An unlikely two birds were seen approaching the Oxenhope Watchpoint from the east during the visible migration watch on 14th October. The birds made a U turn and returned eastwards, making them only the eighth and ninth recorded in this area.

SHAG   Phalacrocorax aristotelis  Scarce visitor   Seen occasionally during the period 1988 to 2001. 

2012  Though seen fairly regularly up to the late 1990’s, there hasn’t been a record since 2001, so a bird over Caldene Fields on 19th October, accompanying a Cormorant, was an excellent observation.
2013  This species was seen fairly regularly up to the late 1990’s but last year’s record of a single bird was the first since 2001. This year, there was something of a repeat, with two birds flying over Caldene Fields on 17th October at almost exactly the same date as in 2012.
LITTLE EGRET Egretta garzetta   Scarce local passage migrant (18 reports in 2015).

1997  Considering the dramatic increase in records of this species in Britain generally, it was perhaps not so surprising that a wandering bird was eventually spotted in the Group’s recording area. An adult bird with breeding plumes was observed at Lindley Wood Reservoir on 1st May; it stayed around for the remainder of that day, and was seen by several other local birders.
2001  Following the only previous record for the Group, this year birds were seen at three separate locations within a six-week period. These locations are in quite close proximity to each other, however, so it appears very likely that all relate to the same individual. The first was at Otley Gravel Pits on 8th August, the second on the River Wharfe near Burley on 3rd September, and the third was at Knotford Nook on 25th September.
2002  A bird seen at Otley Gravel Pits on 18th January had probably been present there five days earlier. It was seen again at this site on 19th and 20th, and also at Lindley Wood Reservoir on the former date. It was recorded for the second successive year, this is the third Group record.
2003  After the last two years it was fully expected that there would be more records for 2003 than just the two received. Both sightings involved pairs of birds, the first was at Elland Gravel Pits on 5th May which caused quite a stir in the neighbouring area as they were the first record for Halifax birders. It wasn’t until 25th August when the next pair was seen, flying down the Aire Valley, over Bingley. These were only the fourth and fifth sightings in the groups recording area.
2005 Two records this year increases the running total to seven. On 7th July, a bird spent the afternoon at Leeshaw Reservoir, and, again in the south of the recording area, one was seen at Cringles, near Silsden, on 18th September .
2009  Three records (the first since 2005) bring the running total to ten. In January, a bird flew west at Otley Wetland on the 23rd, and one was seen on several dates between 14th February and 24th March in the Snaygill and Cononley Ings area. A bird seen here a month later was presumably the same one. Finally, a single passed Barden Scale on 14th July.
2010  The anticipated surge in records of this increasingly widespread species hasn’t materialised, and there was just one report: a bird flying over Bingley Moor on 10th December.
2011  A bird found at Norwood Bottom on 21st July is thought to be the one then seen at Beaverdyke and John o’ Gaunt’s Reservoirs on that date, and on three subsequent dates to 2nd August. It was probably also the one at nearby Swinsty Reservoir on 27th July.
2012  There continues to be a steady run of records, but still not the surge that might have been hoped for. In July, individuals were found near Esholt on the 19th and at Chelker Reservoir seven days later, and one overflew the observer’s home in Shipley on 3rd November.
2013  Despite healthy increases in the UK population, this species has still to make an impact in our recording area. A bird was seen feeding in a channel at the top of Lindley Wood Reservoir on 10th November and there was the possibility of a bird, glimpsed briefly from a passing car, on the playing fields at Ben Rhydding on the 9th December.
2014  Gradually, this species is now making more appearances in the area. 2014 was possibly a breakthrough year, as a record number of reports involved at least 11 birds. The first was a single at Ben Rhydding Gravel Pits on 27th April, followed on 11th May by two on the River Aire at East Riddlesden Hall and another the next day seen flying over Caldene Fields. A single bird flew over Otley Wetland on 17th June and two birds were seen around the nearby sewage works from 13th July until 10th August. Up to four birds were reported from the Washburn Valley, mainly at Lindley Wood Reservoir during August and September.
GREAT WHITE EGRET   Egretta alba  Scarce national vagrant

2008  An excellent first Group record, a bird was present briefly at Otley Wetland on 17th April.

BITTERN   Botaurus stellaris   Scarce winter visitor

1987  One was seen beside a moorland drainage ditch near Eldwick on January 22nd.
1991  A bird seen flying towards Brookfoot Lake at Elland Gravel Pits on 23rd December could not subsequently be located.
1992  Last year’s bird remained at Elland Gravel Pits giving excellent views at times between 3rd and 26th January. Presumably the same bird was flushed from dense vegetation on the river bank nearby on 11th March.
1998  A report was received of a bird flushed from the reeds at Otley Gravel Pits on 30th November, but unfortunately the bird could not be relocated.
2002  For the first time there were two in one year, being the fourthe and fifth for the Group. Individuals were well-seen at Otley Gravel Pits on 8th January and, less typically, flying up the Aire Valley at Silsden on 8th February.
2010  A bird at Otley Wetland, first identified on 18th January, had probably been present since the 10th, and was last seen on the 29th of the month. The sixth Group record.
2011  Otley Wetland produced a January bird for the second successive year, with one discovered there on the 2nd, and seen again on the 13th. The seventh Group record.
2012  This is the third year in succession that a bird has been discovered at Otley Wetland in January, but, like some others, the one there on the 16th didn’t stay around. The eighth Group record.
2013  This is the fourth year in succession a Bittern has been discovered at Otley Wetland. On two occasions in January a bird was seen flying up from the reedbed, gliding and landing, but on 20th February a dog, put into the reeds to flush out a fox, instead disturbed two Bitterns. This is the ninth Group record, but the first time more than one bird has been reported from the same spot.
2015  A bird was flushed from the reedbed at Otley Wetland on 1st April. This is the tenth record for the Group and the first since 2013

BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERON   Nicticorax nicticorax    Rare vagrant

1990  An adult was present at Otley Gravel Pits from at least 17th July to at least 11th August. The bird usually spent its days roosting in the thicket of Willow Salix and Alder Alnus on the island at the first pool, flying westwards at dusk to unknown feeding grounds. However it did sometimes feed near the roost before leaving as darkness approached and was occasionally seen during the day.
1995  Reports from golfers of a ‘funny Bittern’ on Ilkley Golf Course percolated down to the bird-watchers after approximately a week, and it was identified as a first-winter Night Heron on 25th October. It gave excellent views or most of the next two days as it slept in a tree about ten yards from the roadside. 
1998  A surprise find at the Group’s access site of Marley Sewage Works was a sub-adult bird on 14th April. The bird was first surprised at close range, and flew from a dense thicket of willow scrub into similar cover a couple of hundred metres away. It was later seen in flight leaving this thicket to fly upstream, but sadly could not be relocated.
2004  A first-summer bird was found along the River Aire near the Denso Marston Nature Reserve on 7th May, and was seen until at least the 9th. This, remarkably, represents the fourth Group record.

PURPLE HERON   Ardea purpurea   Scarce national vagrant
1999  A description of a heron thought to be this species has been sent to YNU; on 18th September, this heron was flushed from Otley Gravel Pits, and was watched as it disappeared over the near horizon by the single observer.
2013  A bird seen at Snaygill Ings on 4th May was watched from about 50 metres before it flew off, circled high above and drifted away towards the north-east. A full description and distant photos have been submitted to the YNU. This is only the second recorded sighting of this bird, the first by an observer at Otley Wetland in 1997.  Accepted by the YNU Records Panel

BLACK STORK  Circonia nigra   Scarce national vagrant
1995  The bird provided excellent views for approximately three minutes as it drifted south-east down the Wharfe above Strid Woods on 26th April. The weather pattern at the time provided classic overshoot conditions.

GLOSSY IBIS   Plegadis falcinellus   Scarce national vagrant
1997  10th April provided the remarkable sight of four birds flying low over the moor near Kex Gill Quarry. Excellent views were obtained, and one bird was noted to have a yellow ring on its ring. Sadly the bird could not be relocated, having flown down the valley towards Skipton, (two birds were also recorded in Lancashire in late April).

EURASIAN SPOONBILL   Platelea leucorodia   Scarce passage vagrant.
1991  An adult was at Knotford Nook briefly on 6th March.
2007  Marking the welcome reappearance of a species not recorded since 1991, a bird was seen flying east over Otley Wetland on 4th May. Like the previous one, it was noted by only two observers.
2012  A bird seen from Barden Scale on 17th October became only the third Group record.
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