Should have pics to illustrate this post but some file issues with the NEF images, hopefully sort out soon (got pics of Quail!)
There's not been a lot happening in birding terms for me since the Little Swift. The highlight has probably been the Gannet at Walthamstow Reservoirs, my first for London and also a visit to Elmley Marshes RSPB last Sunday which involved finding a Quail (see later in this post for a re-visit).
I was looking forward to my friend Liam coming down from Manchester for the weekend for an excuse to go trucking about a bit, plus a bit of his great company. We started off with a visit to the patch yesterday, not really producing a lot but it was my last chance to bid farewell to and thank Fiona and Stella for their help on the patch over the last year; they're moving away this week.
After CFBW, we made a little trip to a site near Epsom for Red-legged Partridge but didn't find any... so poor Liam continues to need RLP :-). We did see a Peregrine and a Hobby there though, which was cool (latter being a yeartick for Liam, they don't get many up north). Next, Holmethorpe for a quick look at the drake Red-crested Pochard which was still there... not a bad local bird.
Final trip of the day was a local site for Nightjar which was successful with a very curious male bird singing and circling around us about half a dozen times in the short while we were there. This bird afforded both of us our best views of this fascinating and unique British bird.
Today was very productive. A trip to the New Forest was planned and we had an idea of what we wanted to get, and a bit less of an idea of how much the weather was going to hinder these expectations from being realised. I had told Liam that Goshawk were easy at the site we were visiting and I had seen them on each of my visits so was half-expecting a blank on that front but within half an hour of arriving we'd seen about three different Goshawks, including an adult and juvenile females. This was the first lifer of the weekend for Liam. A Gos is a really distinctive bird, even with the naked eye at an okay range you can be quite confident (and correct) that you're onto one. I always love seeing them, truly powerful and wild things.
The odd Crossbill and several Siskins flew over while a couple of Common Buzzards flew about; we also managed to locate a single Tree Pipit and were treated to a bit of a surprise when two Hawfinches passed us (tick for Liam). We perched ourselves up at the 'viewpoint proper' and enjoyed further views of Goshawks - it was then that the third lifer of the day for Liam flew over - a Woodlark... at last! Liam's approaching 300 for Britain and still needs a fair pile of common-ish stuff so is doing well.
We were watching a close Common Buzzard when I noticed a different-looking raptor way above it. Honey-buzzard wasn't my first thought so I let my guard down and had a closer look at the bird (I'd been saving Honey-buzzard as a joint British/patch tick at CFBW so planned to avoid looking at any elsewhere, having got beyond the point of being pig sick from dipping every time I've tried for them at various sites in the past) - as soon as I whacked it up to 60x it did the butterfly/wing-clapping display of a Honey-buzzard - happiness and disappointment at once, I'd done myself out of getting a British lifer at CFBW! I've seen H-b in France and Italy before but have always had awful luck with them in this country and it had got to the point where I had given up some time ago. Of course it was destined that the one time I didn't really want to see one I would. Never mind, it was done and dusted the moment it performed the display flight so I got on and enjoyed the sight as it drifted past us, in view for about ten minutes, rising, wing-clapping and then slightly descending 12-15 times in total. A really cool bird. Liam's fourth lifer of the day and my first (and only).
Ian texted that he was enjoying great views of the Quail that I'd found last weekend at Elmley Marshes so we decided we'd go. It was quite a smooth journey and we arrived to join a little gathering of birders, the Quail sang straight away and was in our scopes almost as quickly. Wonderful! These were my best ever views of this ruddy tricky bird that I've had. Love these cryptic, dinky, secretive little wet-my-lippers. Talking of wet, it suddenly became very much such in terms of weather so we went home. Liam had now seen five new birds today/this weekend and I'd had one plus many other nice birds - we make a good team! Cheers for the company, Liam, see you in Cornwall in a few weeks for lots of seabird specials!
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