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Dabchick magnet

little grebe / Steve Lillywhite / Kestrel Photography little grebe / Steve Lillywhite

Author Graeme Lyons


A couple of days ago at work, Bryan rushed into the office and said he had seen a pair of little grebes on the lake! Now this might not seem like much but it's not happened in the six years I have been at the Sussex Wildlife Trust.

Last January we removed around 1800 carp from the lake as they ate almost everything, plant or animal. This was not a functioning ecosystem with all the nutrients locked up in large non-native fish. We then left the lake dry over the summer to allow the ecosystem to reset. So now, over a year later, are we only just starting to see the conservation benefits. I rushed out to see the birds and saw this one skulking around in the reeds. I spotted someone with a telephoto lens and asked if they could take a photo so I could blog about it. So a big thank you to Steve Lillywhite (what a perfect name for this post!) of Kestrel Photography for allowing us to use this image. I forgot how smart these birds are in breeding plumage.

Now it's hardly Slimbridge but also on the lake were five drake mallard, four moorhen and two coot. There is usually a big fat NOTHING on there this time of year when it comes to wildfowl, maybe a mallard or a moorhen if you're lucky. All the birds were actively feeding and Mike said he even had a pair of tufted duck on Tuesday! This is a fantastic conservation success story and it was a pleasure to see the little grebe actively feeding at the back of the lake but that was nothing compared to a burst of 'little grebe whinnying' as I left the office on Wednesday! A sound loud enough and distinctive enough to change the feel of Woods Mill for a whole summer if they stay to breed.

By the way I'm very proud of that pun.

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  • Celia Cadwallader:

    03 May 2014 08:21:50

    Hi, so pleased to hear about the Little Grebe. I first saw one at Kew a few decades back. The water was so clear we could see it ‘flying’ under the water.
    Since then, I’ve seen lots of Great Crested Grebe, but no dab chicks near enough to identify.
    Will they nest at Wood Mills? Where are they likely to be seen in East/West Sussex?

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