Saturday, 25 August 2012

Raptor day at Canons

A day of highs and lows at the patch today. I was with Ian Jones, Paul Goodman and Ian Magness at the back of Legal & General and Jones casually called a Common Buzzard over near Lunch Wood, being mobbed by corvids. Magness and Paul had a quick look at it but, while I'd normally check all raptors, I was putting my sunblock on as the sun was coming out and I burn like a banana slice in the summer sun, so I didn't bother looking. It turns out that at that very moment Steve Gale was watching a Honey-buzzard flying over next to Lunch Wood, being mobbed by corvids. Steve tried to ring me but I was in a blackspot so didn't realise until eight minutes later at which point panic ensued as we frantically scanned towards Banstead Woods. I briefly picked up a distant large raptor that looked as if it was flying on flat wings and had a long, fanned tail but lost it before I could zoom in on it or study it closely enough to satisfy myself that it was definitely the bird. It quickly dawned on us that we'd missed out, I'd probably just seen the bird and the buzzard that Ian, Ian and Paul were looking at earlier was certainly the Honey-buzzard judging by timing and positioning and that fact that none of them gave it much more than a second glance; so for fifteen minutes I threw a bit of a rage. Honey-buzzard is one that I'd really been dreaming of for the patch and another tricky bird added to the list of super patch ticks I've narrowly missed out on this year. Also on this list are: Little Egret while at the other end of the patch; Green Sandpiper while at college, dipped it by about an hour; Whimbrel while showing a bird racer around a site near Epsom; and, finally, Black Terns while looking for Black Terns at Staines. Missing one or two is a pain, but when the list keeps getting bigger and bigger it really starts to grind on you.

It is great in that it shows that the patch is being pretty well watched and birds that would have been missed by me are being recorded. The Honey-buzzard really was a superb and deserved find by Steve, it would have just been a little more superb if I could have seen it well enough to be sure I'd seen it!

After seeing the first-winter male Common Redstart that remained for its second day, and having a mooch around The Scrub, Jones left - to be soon replaced by Nick Gardner, who started down the lane to look for the Redstart. I made tracks for the Watchpoint as the sky was looking promising, and wise-man Roy recommended a good sky-staring session. I hadn't been there more than ten minutes when I picked up a big raptor with long and flat, occasionally slightly bowed wings, approaching. My first thought was 'Is this the Honey-buzzard coming back!?!' but it was very soon obvious that it was actually an Osprey! It cruised along south-westish, roughly along the railway line but started to drift away and become slightly more distant. I rang Nick as soon as I could and he said he just about managed to get on it as it disappeared from view. A superb year-tick and the third year running that I've had one at the patch, all roughly tracking that valley south in the autumn.
Very much a record phone-scoped clip...