Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Grey Ghost!

October 6th - the lack of recent updates reflects the lack of decent birds.  I have been trying to get the enthusiasm up to write a blog post on the mediocrity of the patch, but now I have a great excuse.....

I spent this morning tramping around and looking yet again for something worth while.  It wasn't as wet as yesterday, but there were some pretty heavy showers to try and evade.  I was seeing the usual crowd - the regular adult Yellow-legged Gull, three Common Gulls, a few fly over Siskins, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits, a slight increase in wildfowl, with 33 Wigeon, 30 Shoveler and about 40 Teal, a handful of Snipe, but that was about it.  Ever the optimist, I keep listening out for the distinctive call of Yellow-browed Warbler, but all I've had so far are numerous Goldcrests and dwindling numbers of Chiffchaff - a Coal Tit on the west bank last week was slightly more unusual for here.

I returned home and decided that after lunch I would try Pump Lane, Emmett's fields and then the west side of Marlow GPs in the hope of turning up a Stonechat - another species that I thought I would have had by now, but could well become a blank year for it.  At least the weather had dried up by the afternoon.  Pump Lane had a small flock of Meadow Pipits and a few very pale grey female Pied Wags trying to look like Whites.  I arrived at Emmett's and decided that I would leave my scope in the boot and just take bins - my expectations were falling fast.  However, things were about to change..........

I had only walked a few hundred yards when a bird of prey lifted off from beyond the game cover about 50 yards ahead of me.  I could see immediately that this was going to be a harrier, however when I lifted my bins up I was amazed to see an adult male Hen Harrier flapping gracefully over the field.  It held a small dark shape in its talons that was indeterminable, presumably either a small bird or a small mammal and also presumably just caught.  I watched it fly low over the field to the west and then it disappeared below the ridge of the field, though it did look like it was coming down again.

I then planned my next move.  I needed to get news out, as a Hen Harrier is a good local bird, an adult male is an extremely good local bird.  I decided to post the record on the county website, as this would inform many people and the record would also be picked up by the bird information services and sent out.  I then had to return to the car to collect my scope.  I intended to walk via the permissive path to the ridge that the bird had disappeared behind and hope that it was still visible.  The walk took some minutes and once at the ridge I could see more fields stretched out between me and the A404 bypass - this is not an area I had looked at before.  I scanned with my bins and almost immediately picked up the harrier again.  This must have been about 20 minutes after my initial sighting, so it looked to be sticking for a bit.  It was flying over a short grass field several hundred yards to the west.  I got it in the scope just to make sure that I wasn't messing up a Pallid or Northern, but no, a beautiful adult male Hen.  After a short while, it descended and landed in the field and remained there for some time - maybe it had devoured its prey item and wanted a rest.  I took some very distant record shots.  It then took off, flew a fair bit closer and then landed in another field.  I took some more record shots.  Flight shots would have been better to show it in its full glory, but I can't do those with my set up unless it is very close.  A couple of magpies landed next to it and scared it into flight, but it just returned to its original field and landed again.

I noticed Pete S and another guy nearby scanning in the wrong direction.  Assuming they were looking for the harrier, I waved my arms to attract their attention and then beckoned them to come up the hill.  Within a few minutes, they had the bird on the deck in their scopes and I had to leave for school pick up.  What a fantastic afternoon that turned out to be!

Edit: it transpires that what must have been the same bird was seen earlier in the day at Staines Moor, where it was watched hunting for 90 minutes before flying off NW at 12:30pm.

Initial view in field digiscoped at about 50x

Luckily it came a bit closer, but still hundreds of yards away

Same shot but cropped

Some other photos that I've taken over the past few weeks but not had a blog post to use them on:

The regular adult YLG

An over exposed 1w YLG

And again...
Quite enjoyed watching a small flock of goldfinches feeding on teazels

Noticed in the photo that this bird is ringed

Juv male Sprawk trying to dry out on the spit after this morning's showers
I've seen a couple of Red Underwings on patch this September. Not an uncommon moth, but one that I don't see too often. This one was digiscoped from 50 yds away on a telegraph pole, so hasn't come out too badly.

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