Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena)

Far fewer Red-necked Grebes have been found in Cheshire and Wirral in recent years, probably because they have no need to migrate this far as the warming climate leaves eastern waters ice-free. Their breeding areas, shallow inland waters in Finland and eastern Europe, freeze in winter so they move to the coasts, mostly the Baltic and southern coast of the North Sea, where they can still dive for small fish.

The birds recorded in the course of this Atlas, in 2004/ 05, were the first in the county in winter since 30 January 1999. One was found on Combermere (SJ54X) during WeBS counts on 12 December 2004 and 15 January 2005, with two birds on 16 January 2005, and one was at Woolston (SJ68P) on 9 February 2005.

In the 19th century, Coward and Oldham (1900) wrote that ‘… off the Cheshire shores, as elsewhere on the west coast of England, the Red-necked Grebe is a rather rare winter visitor’. Brockholes (1874) had said it was occasionally obtained in the estuary of the Dee. To Boyd (1951) in central Cheshire, the species was ‘a rare and casual winter visitor’, only three records: one on Marbury Mere, 29 December 1926 to 22 January 1927; another there, a long-staying bird from 6 February to 12 May 1937; and an immature bird ‘on the flashes’ 4 and 5 February 1942. Bell (1962) noted an increase in records, ascribed to more observer interest. Nearly all of the records (17 out of 22 known to him) were in January and February.

Since then, the annual county bird reports show that Red-necked Grebes have been recorded in half of the winters from 1964 to 2006, but with more than one bird only in seven of them. The only notable influx was ten birds in February 1979 when most of the Baltic froze (Chandler 1981).