Grey Phalaropes visit Cheddar Reservoir

Will I?

Won’t I?

I had half an hour to spare this afternoon and I had heard that a rare grey phalarope had dropped into Cheddar Reservoir. I had never seen a grey phalarope before, however my luck at finding reported birds was not great.

Oh well, nothing to loose – I turned the van into the reservoir car park for a quick look.

Within five minutes I had my telescope set up in the autumn sunshine, and a moment later I was zooming in on my first grey phalarope. I had hit the jackpot - I was in exactly the right place at the right time, and just below where I stood was not one, but two phalaropes – one adult and one juvenile - both happily stirring up insects and invertebrates at the water’s edge.

What lovely little waders they were too, with subtle shades of white, grey and black, resplendent in their winter plumage. I was glad I had made the effort and pleased to add another bird species to my life list.

Back home, I looked up my copy of Birds Britannica and found that the odd name ’phalarope’ derives from the Greek for ‘coot-footed’, referring to the lobed structure of the bird’s feet. So now you know.

I had seen the smaller and daintier cousin of the grey phalarope before - the red–necked phalarope; once in Shetland and again in Iceland both times stirring up midges in puddles. I wondered where these two grey phalaropes might have come from? Somewhere in the high arctic no-doubt – Greenland or Spitsbergen.

And where were they heading?

By all accounts they spend their winters in the waters off west Africa.

grey phalarope

grey phalarope





Graeme Mitchell