Friday, 20 September 2013

20th September - Honey for Tea?

If you recall the House Martin pair that are nesting under the eaves of the house, had quite a traumatic start to the season, with the nest falling down, killing the first brood, but saw things pick up when they successfully fledged a second brood, and then started a third.  Well the drama started up again when yesterday Helen found a nestling on the drive.  It was pretty much ready to fledge, but had ended up flapping around on the drive unable to fly away.  Helen managed to catch it, and made a nest for it out of a towel and ice cream carton (it was also named Kelly!), and let it calm down.  When the rain eased and the sun came out, the parents were flying about so she took it back out to see if it would fly.

Well it did, but just flopped again on the lawn.  She then picked it up, and threw it up into the air, and it flew across the road, and on to a neighbour's roof.  It stayed there for a while, but then it moved, and ended up in the gutter, which unfortunately is the last that was seen of it.  We are hopeful it pulled itself out,and joined the others, but we will never know.  Like the Blue Tits, I am confident it made it.

Through the day the sky cleared and the sun shone.  In the late afternoon I went out for a walk, in the hope that I could at least find good numbers of hirundines.  I set off down Brislands, and the sun was picking out the insects around the oak trees.  While this is definitely not in focus, I do like the effect the bokums give behind the oak trees and the blurred insects that were flying around.

I turned down Gradwell, and set off towards Old Down from the footpath.  As I walked I could hear Swallows above me, but couldn't see them.  I could also hear Meadow Pipit flying over.  Once I walked away from the hedges I started to see Swallows.  They were flying around the hedge, but there were also some moving purposely throuigh, flying low over the field.  I scanned through them all, and could find a few House Martins, but unfortunately no Sand Martins.

As I scanned the sky for the swallows, I picked up a raptor that was very high, drifting towards the south west.  It did not look like a buzzard it was very pale, but more distinctive was the shape, the head was prominent, and the tail seemed to be longer.  I took some pictures between watching it with the binoculars.  I hoped that the photograph would allow me to crop in and get a better chance of identification.  When I got home I was able to look at some grainy pictures.  This was the first.

I had the benefit of a closer look.  The wings show very dark carpels (or wrists), with dark edges to the wings.  Although not visible in this picture, the neck looked long and narrow, and pale, something I have not seen in any buzzard around here.

I am happy this was a Honey Buzzard  and the fact that it flew high and kept going indicated to me a migrant bird.  It was also nothing like any of the resident Common Buzzards, and I have never seen them fly in this manner.

I walked off not knowing then that I had just found another patch tick, but I did walk off thinking that was not an ordinary buzzard.  I walked around the outside of the wood, heading for Brislands.  I ducked into the wood, and then down the main path to Brislands.  I could hear tractors in the far field, and when I reached the road I could see the tractors sowing seeds in the field.  

As is always the case at this time of year there were birds in the fields.  I could see mainly Wood Pigeons, but there were also some white doves and feral pigeons.  As I scanned across the field I noticed a dark pigeon coming in fast, but then there was an explosion of feathers, and I watched a wood pigeon taken by a Peregrine, that flew a short way, then dropped to the ground.  The burd was unmistakeable, with the moustaches visible as it flew away.  I waited to see if it would re-appear, but it didn't.  Another year tick though, one I didn't think I would get this year.

As I waited a huge flock of Black-headed and Common Gulls flew up from behind the tractors.

They drifted towards me, and seemed to be everywhere.  I scanned through them for a "snowball" med, but couldn't see anything like one.

I continued to scan the rest of the field just in case the Peregrine appeared, and as I did I saw a yellow butterfly flying strongly across the field.  With binoculars I could see it was a Clouded Yellow, my second of the year.  This picture must be the ultimate record shot, but please believe me it was a Clouded Yellow.

I waited, but nothing else turned up, so I headed back into the wood, and walked off towards the Gradwell footpath.  As I walked through the wood a Tawny Owl called, a sign of autumn, as they start to contest territory.

I walked once again to the middle of the field and scanned again for hirundines.  There were the resident birds around the paddocks, and you could see birds coming together probably to feed.  Every so often though, there would be a strong flight of swallows coming low over the field.  It was in one of these passages that I finally managed to find the first Sand Martin of the year, the sandy coloured breast band being clearly visible.

The swallows continued to swoop up and around me, and against the darkening clouds.

As I walked toward the hedges I noticed that the swallows were collecting in the trees, so I walked a little closer to get some pictures.

One was very confiding and I could get in quite close.  I wonder where this bird will be in a few months time, Namibia?

I walked to the road, but stopped as I saw some birds in the Elderberry bushes, as I got closer I found a male Blackcap, and yet another Spotted Flycatcher, my sixth of the autumn.  I headed off down the lane with a spring in my step again, as far as I was concerned two year ticks, another good migrant, and a rare butterfly.  This was made even better when I got home and saw the raptor photographs.

A couple of weeks ago I was moaning about the lack of quality, isn't it strange how quickly things can change!

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