Every year, until about mid-December, we have Great Crested Grebes on the patch. As mid-December approaches, the Grebes can be seen consulting calendars and chatting amongst themselves. Every year the local patch-workers can also be found checking dates and chatting amongst themselves - will Great Crested Grebe get onto the January 1st list? The answer is always "no". As the Grebes see us getting ever more excited, they swim ever more nonchalantly around the Basin. And then with about a fortnight to go, they just disappear. And so it happened at the end of 2011, and despite me checking the Basin more or less daily - with excellent other results, it must be said - there has been no sign.
Yesterday was unseasonably warm. It seems ridiculous that less than two weeks ago the whole place was covered in snow and ice, but yesterday I could have walked to work in shirt sleeves. I very nearly did end up walking to work as it happens, but that is another story that would inevitably turn into a rant, so I shall leave it there. Anyway, it was glorious, it felt truly spring-like, and even though I was headed to the salt mines, I had a spring in my step as I did so. Perhaps this abrupt change in the weather caused wintering Great Crested Grebes to seek out their breeding lakes, and today when I checked the Basin on the way back from the school run, what should I see on my scan?
Then again, maybe the weather has nothing to with it. Checking some files I just happen to have lying around, I am able to see that in 2011 Great Crested Grebes first appeared on February 26th, in 2010 on January 21st, in 2009 on March 2nd, and in 2008 on January 26th. I could go on but it might be boring, whereas five years of someone else's patch Grebe arrival history still qualifies as extremely interesting.
Last year two pairs attempted nesting, but neither succeeded; we don't know why. One pair got as far as eggs, but nothing happened, and I'm not sure the second pair even managed that. They gave it a good go though. I'm very much hoping for a repeat performance, but one ending in small humbug-like chicks, which I have a hankering to photograph as they are extremely cute. They have it all to do, and I wish them the best of luck.