Amongst the many lists that I keep one is my Oxon County Grip List. This is the list of birds that I have missed over the years which would have been county ticks for me had I been around to get them. For them to go on the list the bird has to be reasonably twitchable so obviously a single-observer sighting doesn't count. Mercifully, this list is rather small and comprises: Manx Shearwater, Red-necked Grebe, Purple Sandpiper, Citrine Wagtail (which we don't talk about), Red-throated Diver (though this only hung around for about an hour so wasn't very twitchable) and Sandwich Tern. The latter is my county bogey bird - often just a fly-through at Farmoor though there have been a couple recently (Pit 60 and Grimsbury Reservoir) that have stayed for twitchable lengths of time though the news was never put out. Anyway, all these birds, whilst being fairly common or garden nationally have somehow eluded me within the county. So when Dai John phoned me this morning saying that he had a Red-necked Grebe at Farmoor I didn't hang around at all but threw my gear into the Gnome-mobile and headed off to the concrete basin. As I drove my thoughts went back to the last one which had been found three years ago in October 2010 whilst I'd been down in Cornwall. The one before that was 2006 so this species is definitely a good bird for the county and I was keen to make up for my miss.
As Dai had found it on the south side of F2 I parked up along the Lower Whitely Farm road to save time (and money) and soon found myself looking at a Grebe though it turned out to be the long-staying Slavonian. A quick call to Dai ascertained that the Red-necked had moved round to the west bank of F2 so it was a 10 minute yomp around to that side before I arrived, out of breath to find Dai and Terry Sherlock watching the bird. And what a cracker it was too - I set about taking some digiscoped photos of it.
The Red-necked Grebe
After a while I decided to walk around to the causeway to pay my respects to the male Long-tailed Duck that was hanging out by the hide - it had been around for several days now. As he was going that way Dai kindly gave me lift which saved a good ten minute slog - Farmoor is just so big compared to Port Meadow. The Duck was diving away quite close in-shore so I took some snaps with the super-zoom.
The Long-tailed Duck
On the way back to where I parked I managed to find a Common Sandpiper near the car park, the first for a few weeks on Farmoor apparently.
Then it was back home to bask in the glory of a revenge tick and ceremoniously to cross Red-necked Grebe off my Oxon County Grip List.
Farmoor is having a real purple patch at present what with Long-tailed Duck, Gannet, two or three separate Bonxie records, and now the complete set of the rarer Grebes. What will turn up next?