HOME  |  ABOUT US  |  PHOTO PAGE  | RECENT SIGHTINGS  | MYSTERY PHOTOGRAPHS  |  LOUNGE LIZARD ARTICLES  | SITE GUIDES  |  LINKS PAGE


GREAT NORTHERN DIVERS IN LOWESTOFT

IN LOWESTOFT COMPARISONS CAN BE drawn between twitchable Great Northern Divers, Gavia immer, and buses. As the saying goes, you wait for ages for one and when it turns up another inevitably follows shortly after. Therefore, considering the last to linger was back in 1988, two in two winters isn't bad going. The previous Lake Lothing record was some twenty-two years ago in 1979, when birders still wore flared trousers, (come on you know you did!). This individual stayed from January 10 to April 2 and was said to be "the most watched Suffolk diver for many years".

There followed a period of five blank years before Oulton Broad held one, for a day, on November 29, 1984. Four years later the same site played host to a stonking adult in breeding plumage. This bird gave crippling views from the yacht club house from October 2326, 1988. Although some reports claim that it had been present for some time before this.

On December 4, 1999, one was found on Lake Lothing. The next day it had been joined by a Black-throated Diver, G. arctica. The appearance of the Black-throated gave many the rare chance of a diver hat-trick with nearby Ness Point offering Red-throated Diver, G. stellata, fly-bys. The Great Northern was last reported on January 19, 2000, while the Black-throated remained until at least March 18, 2000.
 

First winter Great Northern Diver, Lowestoft 1999/2000
Great Northern Diver
Lake Lothing, 1999-2000
Black-throated Diver
Black-throated Diver
Lake Lothing, 1999-2000

The most recent record has, once again, proved very popular. As with the 1999-2000 individual it is a first-winter. After initial sightings in Hamilton Dock, November 27-28, 2000, it was relocated on adjoining Lake Lothing on December 2 and is still present at the time of going to press. It spends most of its time in the Brooke Business Park vicinity and is usually viewable from the footbridge over the railway line at the end of Harbour Road.

Other than these five twitchable birds another seven have been seen from local seawatching haunts since 1980. The most recent regarding one flying north past Pakefield Cliffs on November 14, 2000.

There have been just three records of White-billed Diver, G. adamsii, in Suffolk. The first concerned a bird in partial winter plumage shot at Pakefield in the spring of 1852. According to the Birds of Suffolk it was preserved in the Gurney collection and is now in Norwich Castle Museum. The next was seen from a North Sea ferry off Felixstowe, January 5, 1978; and the third, a bird in breeding plumage, flew south past Southwold, November 6, 1994.
 

References:
Piotrowski, S.H., Suffolk Birds 1989. Ipswich.
Rafe, R.W., Suffolk Birds 1995. Ipswich.
Payn, W.H., 1978. The Birds of Suffolk. Ancient House Publishing, Ipswich.

Feeding Behaviour of Great Northern Diver
by Andrew Easton and Robert Wilton


 
First winter Great Northern Diver, Lowestoft 2000/2001
Great Northern Diver
Lake Lothing, 2000-2001

PICTURED ABOVE IS THE LOWESTOFT 2000-2001 Great Northern Diver. The photograph shows an orange stain on its throat, a feature that at first puzzled us. But in late December, while watching it feed, an answer became clear.

Shore Crabs, Carcinus maenas, appeared to form the bulk of its diet. The smaller ones were swallowed whole, while the larger ones needed aggressive preparation. First they were grasped by the legs, before being flicked sharply to the side resulting in the diver holding a beak full of limbs. These were soon discarded and the unfortunate crab retrieved before it sank. The action was then repeated until all legs were removed. We believe that the orange stain is crab juice, but are open to any other suggestions.

Prior to diving the bird would submerge its head while swimming along. Several sources state that divers snorkel to locate prey. It's obviously a successful technique, just ask the crabs, if you can find any!!!
 


HOME  | ABOUT US  |  PHOTO PAGE
RECENT SIGHTINGS  | MYSTERY PHOTOGRAPHS
LOUNGE LIZARD ARTICLES  | SITE GUIDE  |  LINKS PAGE