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Monday, 2 September 2013

Honey-buzzing!

I hardly had any time at the patch yesterday so was keen to get out there and see what I could find this morning. It was bright and cool and it was soon clear that it wasn't going to be a big 'movement' day for hirundines or pipits or anything like that but at this time of year it's always worth sticking it out for the one or two treats that could well be lurking. A Common Gull was the only bird of any real note I'd had by the time I approached Perrotts Farmhouse, towards mid-day. Here I picked up a Hobby, a Common Buzzard and then another raptor which approached head-on and was strikingly pale, momentarily recalling Osprey, but the shape and lots of other things about the bird were wrong. It circled and looked like it was going to continue to do so but by the time I could rattle of some shots it was gliding away. I was frustrated and resigned myself to probably not seeing the bird again, and only having some crap pictures that I couldn't really get anything from. However, just in case, I lingered in the area for a little while and picked up three Common Buzzards, and, yes, the bird was in with them! ... But it disappeared behind the trees!!! I tried to remain calm and hoped it would reappear, which it thankfully did. The bird put on a good show from then, flying fairly low and quite near me and having the odd minor disagreement with the Common Buzzards before it circled, rapidly gained height and headed west. The time from the initial sighting to losing sight of it was a full twenty minutes, looking at the time stamps on the photographs.

pale morph juvenile Honey-buzzard

Watching the bird through the binoculars and scope it became quite clear to me that it was a pale morph juvenile Honey-buzzard. For one thing, it was very pale on the underparts with fine markings on the breast and quite a long, fan-shaped tail. The tail noticeably had two bars near the base and a terminal band. The underwing pattern was striking, with the carpal patches standing out against the largely plain off-white coverts, and three evenly-spaced bars on the flight feathers along with the dark trailing edge and wingtips. The bird's behaviour was a give-away too as it flew on consistently straight wings, only occasionally giving a gentle downward push with its wings. It sometimes raised its head and peered round, and twisted its tail in kite-like fashion. Still, even though I'd noted all this in the field I was cautious (better than making a tit of yourself by being pre-emptive) and posted a couple of pictures on Twitter for others to confirm I wasn't seeing things, mainly because I've seen very few Honey-buzzards indeed and never a juvenile... I was quickly re-assured that my ID was correct (I should have more faith in myself) and I celebrated my first patch Honey-buzzard, after missing two very closely over the last twelve months or so!