5 September 2019

2019 / 74

07:15 – 09:45
Beautiful mild sunny morning, around 10°C.
Good light, virtually no breeze or cloud. F1 NW

with Tony Bunday (and Ernie)


One of those Red Letter Days when it all comes together.
Proper birding, at a site that I am privileged to serve as a steward. Full of good things because it is so clean, and undisturbed. Enjoy the pictures!

Tony has a new camera, with a super long zoom lens and was keen to try it out. He has never photographed a Hobby before, or seen a juvenile, so I was a little anxious that things would work out here. The birds can be very difficult sometimes, and I never know what to expect. I have had two Spotted Flycatcher sessions recently as well – surely it we can’t get both…?

At the east clearfell, a scattering of tits and a few Chiffchaffs round the edge. The resident juvenile (year old) Buzzard squeaking and perched up in the pines.

Our first encounter with a Hobby was brief, but encouraging. Closer inspection of the photographs later have led me to think this is an adult bird – taken halfway down Q2, looking north over the ‘Christmas tree’ plantation


Correction (9 September)
Opinion seems to favour this being an older juvenile, that fledged last year.

The dark cere and dull/pale vent would suggest it is not a full adult
So maybe one of the brood returning…?

As we turned into Upper Velmore, both the young Hobbies were in the top of the same tree they used last year and flew off immediately, without calling.
The headed out over the clearfell, and we followed.
Here, the light conditions were absolutely perfect, and after a frustrating 20 minutes scanning, one came in to the same Yew tree by the High Seat that they were in last week.
It sat right out in the open on an exposed branch, and left enough room to be joined by its sibling a few moments later! Best ever, incredible views followed.
We were able to watch the birds ‘chirping’ to each other, preening, nodding etc. Notice the brown feather edgings that confirm juvenile status – and of course the ‘fluffy’ down still on the flanks and belly.
What a treat.


©Tony Bunday. Uncropped for context


©Tony Bunday. Uncropped for context


Juvenile Hobbies ©Tony Bunday. Note feather edgings, fluffy flanks, dark cere, head pattern and pale tips to the tail feathers

The birds simply would not fly, and we moved on, leaving them perched in the sunshine.
Within moments, this came over, flying not much above head height, left to right:

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Adult female Kestrel ©Tony Bunday

A Kestrel. Rare here, but I wonder if it was this bird that was engaged with the Hobbies a week or so ago? It circled overhead, and moved off north. For a while…

As we moved along the northern track, a commotion overhead drew or attention to a Jackdaw and a Carrion Crow mobbing another bird of prey, which we initially assumed would be one of the Hobbies. Immediately wrong – it was a Sparrowhawk. In fact – and quite exceptionally, it was TWO Sparrowhawks!
I have been confusing raptors left right and centre this last couple of weeks, and perhaps it’s no surprise. When they are all together, it’s less difficult to tell them apart.

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Never Moments indeed. Three birds of prey, in the air together, at the same time!
Unique in my experience, surpassing even last year when I had Hobby and Kestrel for a while. The Kestrel today made a fleeting return, but the Sparrowhawks and the Hobbies stayed on view for the next half hour as we walked round the clearfell. They seemed to be clearly just enjoying the morning, and the flight of freedom.
Wonderful to watch – circling, hovering, chasing.
I am blessed.

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Start the day
With birds of prey
Falcons and hawks
On morning walks

The south side of the Wood is bathed in beautiful sunshine, and feels lighter and potentially more interesting for early morning activity than the more familiar wayleave.


It was no surprise, but again a delight, to come across two groups of Willow Warblers and tits here. Especially the latter group, consisting of about 30 birds, predominantly in an alder, heavy with cones.

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Willow Warbler ©Tony Bunday

Willow Warblers are such delightful birds this time of year. They spiral and dance, falling like leaves as they move along between bushes. Never still for a moment, and constantly calling. And with them, yes. Again! Something white, large and ‘clumsy’ by character. Flitting in and out, then swooping back up to an exposed perch.
Spotted Flycatchers don’t tend to hide, and once you find them, they are easy to see.
Less easy to count this morning as at least two birds kept disappearing out of our view into a taller tree behind. There was one the other side of the track too, so we have agreed another three birds. Here are two different individuals:


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Spotted Flycatcher ©Tony Bunday

A rare treat, and a proper good session of birding that return far better photography than we even hoped for. There is always something to see of course, and at this time of year the Wood is simply a beautiful place to be. To get lifetime best views of quality birds as well as perfect conditions is a very special thing, and I am thankful and humbled by the opportunity.

This really is a magical place.





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