On October 30th, 2020, Tony Duckett and Dave Johnson were checking the lake and waterfowl when they noticed a bird that looked like a juvenile Red-throated Diver. This species is not a normal visitor to the Park and is not usually seen inland except where it breeds in Scotland, Iceland, and Scandinavia. They concluded that it may have struggled to find food in the gale lashed North Sea, become weak, and been blown inland prior to turning up in Regent’s Park.
Next day the bird was still there and appeared to be in distress. Fortunately, it was in a location where they stood a good chance of catching it. Tony got a boat, caught the diver in his net, and passed it to Dave who hurried with it to the Nature Study Centre.
The pens there offer water, shelter and protection, and Hugh Smith, the Wildlife Officer at St James’s Park, cycled over with some frozen small fish. The diver had to be force fed for a couple of days, but on the third day of captivity ate some fish unaided, and although a few times afterwards fish had to be put in its throat, it swallowed them voluntarily.
Tony and Dave were worried that, kept in captivity, the bird would lose muscle definition if it did not exercise, but it was still under weight. They discussed this with various authorities, and the decision was taken that Tony would take the bird to the Norfolk coast for release. There the sea was calm, and almost immediately it was in the water the diver looked at home and headed out to sea.
Margaret Elliott, February 2021 (from a text and photos supplied by Tony Duckett, Royal Parks Wildlife officer)