Sunday, 31 October 2010

Rough Day

Out of county birding trips are at a premium in these days of high petrol prices but it isn't too often you get reports of four-five Rough-legged Buzzard at one location within striking distance from Northumberland. With Stewart  and birding talisman "Lucky" Andy on board we slipped towards the A1 as most of the north pulled up the quilt to take advantage of the extra hour. A Common Buzzard presumably having just left a roost crossed our path just before Clifton an early flier.

Some time later, with the in-car entertainment ranging from the importation of large numbers of Icelandic bird skulls to Australian Plains Wanderers, we slipped through the mist of Commondale down through the village and up the ridge that overlooks the Sleddale Burn.
A still morning found us surrounded by Red Grouse creeping out of every crack in the dry stone walls and doing fantastic Pheasant impersonations out in short-turfed sheep fields. Far from flying away from us they seemed to be flying to observe.
Red Grouse ridiculously confiding

As the low cloud lifted we quickly found first one, then a second Rough-legged Buzzard about 1km north of our vantage behind the farmhouse. A quick look at the map highlighted a public footpath that would cut the distance between us and the birds in half. The path swept around past the farm and we stopped at a new vantage about 200m across from the trees and extensive hillside rabbit warren the birds had been over. Over the next 1.5 hours we had Rough-legged Buzzard in view for about 70% of the time, at least two birds present in this part of the valley, alternating between tree and ground perches. At one point a Rough-legged Buzzard came in from behind us after what appeared to be a mid-air incident with a large Peregrine.

Stewart using the natural land features to his advantage, whilst 'lucky' Andy focuses on making his own luck.

Satisfied we moved back out to the south end of the valley about 1.5km south where 14 vehicles congregated watching a further two Rough-legged Buzzards performing at the other end of the valley, albeit a little more distantly. More Northumberland birders at this site that had yesterday also held a Great Grey Shrike, though sadly not today.

Relaxed unhurried views of these great birds on the ground and in flight showed all the features both plumage and jizz well despite the overcast and slightly misty conditions. A fantastic opportunity to get good prolonged views; if these birds remain it's a great opportunity to get to grips with them. Well worth the trip down.


The almost obligatory record shots.


James said...

Nice one. Pity the weather wasn't as good as yesterday mind.

Stewart said...