Thursday, 29 November 2012

Great Northern Diver

When an unusual bird turns up in Bristol, it may have overshot its destination, or been blown over by strong winds. Sometimes, the bird is simply ill, or unable to find suitable food, especially if it turns up in the muddy Severn Estuary!

Recently, a very tame Great Northern Diver was found feeding close to people on a marine lake at Weston Super Mare - aside from providing some amazing opportunities for photos, the bird was also seen feeding on crabs. 

Sadly, after a week or so of being here, it was found dead today by ecologist Phil Quinn - I happened to bump into him outside the Bristol City Museum as I was on my way back to my office. He had the diver with him, and was about to take it into the museum. 

Removing the bird from a black, plastic bag on the path outside Browns restaurant (as you do!), I marvelled at this large, duck-sized bird which had flown down from Iceland or Canada. It was clearly a juvenile, with immaculate plumage, and silvery, shimmery edges to its back, and shoulder feathers. As with all divers, the legs were flattened; ideal for moving through the water with the least resistance. As we looked closer at its huge, thick bill, we noticed the nostril was divided in to two parts, perhaps an adaptation to help with diving. 

While it is sad the bird died, at least it can now contribute further to science - over time it will be mounted and used as part of the local, museum collection at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery.

For photos of the bird alive, see the avonbirding blog