Friday, 29 August 2014

Honey Monster!

29th August - I was out early this morning.  2 Redshank were new arrivals and fairly vocal as they were put up a few times by the ever nervous Lapwings.  However, they remained on the west side until I left and were with a Green Sand for a while that flew in at 8am but flew back west just after 9am.  I suspect that this bird is using Randall's lake, as I have seen a Green Sand fly in several times now over the past week.

The problem with early morning viewing is that from my usual west side viewpoint, you are looking straight into the sun.  So I made my way down to the meadow with the intention of watching from the southern bank - not something I do very often.  My first scan of the weedy Spade Oak meadow revealed the continuing presence of the juvenile Stonechat - not sure how I missed that yesterday.  I decided to walk to the river and look back at the weeds to try and get a better record shot than my previous effort (not hard!!).  You can see that it is still largely in juvenile plumage and quite a scruffy little bird, but good for the patch.

I then made my way to the southern bank and was pleased to find that a single Spotted Flycatcher was still in the same place as yesterday.  It was very vocal this morning.  I decided to use the fishing swim near the Spot Fly as my vantage point and watched from here for some time.  I picked up 4 Swifts feeding over the poplars on the NE side and there was a steady pulse of hirundines moving through, about 30 Sand Martins and 100 Swallows.  The House Martins of about 100 seemed to be more resident than migrating.  I saw 12 Ring-necked Parakeets fly in from their overnight roost and a lot of geese flying around, c50 Egyptian, c200 Greylags and c100 Canadas, but otherwise not much was happening.

Conscious of the fact that my 2 recent Ospreys had both been seen at around 8:45am, I decided to give myself until 9am just in case.  However, at 8:50am with the weather looking fairly settled, I gave up and started my walk back.  Almost immediately I noticed a buzzard type bird flying south over the STW to the west.  Living in this area, you get very used to seeing Red Kites and Common Buzzards flying around and this bird looked different.  It was obviously a buzzard sp, but its flight looked different to Common, a nice steady and deep wing beat and even from my vantage point through bins the tail and wings looked long.  The upperside was a dark brown not dissimilar to many Common Buzzards.  I had only seen the bird briefly and kept losing it behind trees on the west bank, but I had my suspicions that it was a Honey-buzzard, so I legged it as fast as I could  back to the meadow over the railway crossing.  I knew that I would be able to see without obstruction from here and given the bird's flight path, it should be easily visible if it kept going.  Success! As I entered the meadow, the bird appeared from the STW over the railway and wasn't too far west from being overhead.  I looked at it through bins and could now see that it was a Honey-buzzard - get in!! It was extensively and fairly evenly dark barred over its underwings and belly, with a terminal bar and two other bars on its tail.  The hand area of the underwing appeared slightly paler than the rest of the wing.  However, this view didn't last long, as the bird kept on flapping southwards.  I switched to my scope and watched it flapping and gliding on over the river and over Winter Hill in Berks until it was lost from view - it was probably only c100ft - c150ft up, so fairly low.  As the bird glided away from me, the completely flat wing profile, including the wing tip was very obvious.  Judging by the plumage features that I saw, it looks to be an adult female bird.  A totally unexpected patch tick and one that would have flown straight through unnoticed if I had been standing in my usual spot on the west side, as trees block out any view of the west - luck was with me this morning!

Everything seemed a bit of an anti-climax after that, but I checked Pump Lane paddocks and found 2 Yellow Wagtails with the horses and a little further on a Yellowhammer flew over calling.

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