Slavonian Grebes, Podiceps auritus, are a regular visitor to our shores albeit in small numbers. In total there are about 1100 birds each year but this only yields between 39-43 pairs. Because of this they are classified as ‘amber status’ by the RSPB.
One of the best spots to see this delightful bird is Loch Ruthven in the Highlands of Scotland, which is approximately 16 miles SW of Inverness. A short walk of about 500 meters takes you along the loch side to a viewing hide where you have a good chance of viewing the grebes.
We were fortunate enough to visit in good weather in spring 2012 (remember when spring could be sunny)? Skylarks and meadow pipits were singing and the paths were crawling with toads. The usual suspects were around and we also had good sightings of a pair of reed buntings from the hide. There was a distant diver, but too far away to positively ID.
From the hide we had a good thirty minutes of Slavonian interaction with a dabchick, and the pair appeared quite territorial when the little grebe, Tachybaptus ruficollis got too close.
The grebes themselves are one of the most delightful birds when in breeding plumage; a bronze body, dark head and wings and golden ear tufts which have also earned itself the name of horned grebe. The most spectacular thing about them is there mating ritual which involves the pair of birds rising out of the water whilst facing one another and then mirroring one another’s movements. Something I have yet to witness but am hoping to photograph one day.
There are no facilities at this small reserve except for a car park. The walking trails are well managed and the hide was in a good location and not to far away from the birds. The loch itself is large so I guess you have to be lucky to have the grebes performing in front of the hide for you. Other star species are osprey, curlew, black and red throated divers.
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