Wednesday, 18 January 2023

Raptor fest

Well I managed to free up another day today which is not an easy task but I decided to make the most of it and popped up the M11 for a full day out with the Jims. We arrived at the Eldernell car park in Cambridgeshire for first light having seen a Barn Owl on route. A walk along the bank and we managed to see just one Long-eared Owl tucked away in the brambles, I took a couple of pictures keeping a good distance to give the sleeping bird due respect and left it to rest as we moved on to the small copse where we'd heard of a visible roosting Tawny Owl and it wasn't long before we'd found it sleeping in the hole in a tree. Protected from disturbance by the river running in front of the copse it was happy to just sit out in the open. 

Long-eared Owl

Tawny Owl

The Jims picked up year ticks with a large flock of Fieldfare and a Green Woodpecker before we started the walk back. We saw many Whooper Swans both settled out on the marsh and flying by. Five Cranes flew over followed by another three then two more before we spotted four birds on the far bank. A Peregrine flew by and landed on the marsh to add to the Buzzards, Marsh Harriers, Kestrel, Red Kite and Sparrowhawk already seen. The best bird of the visit was a male Hen Harrier which came up to challenge a Buzzard and stayed in view for a few minutes as it looked to see off the bird. As we got back to the car park we spotted a Kingfisher by the bridge but failed to find any roosting Short-eared Owls. A Merlin was seen as we drove out.

Cranes above the Lapwing at Eldernell

Our next stop was Holkham which was an hours drive away but having failed to visit the place on new years day due to the car park being full and closed we just had to give it another try. As we pulled in we searched for Grey Partridge and I asked a couple if they'd seen any only for them to say "no but we've just found this Long-billed Dowitcher " We put news out then I took some pictures of the Dowitcher as it fed with a small group of Black-tailed Godwits among the vast flock of Wigeon. Sadly we spotted a couple of Pink-footed Geese that were showing the distressing signs of bird flu.

Long-billed Dowitcher

Long-billed Dowitcher

Dowitcher and Wigeon

Long-billed Dowitcher

A covey of Grey Partridge were seen with four Snipe before we headed off out into the gap. Arriving at the roped off are we found ten Shorelark and 30+ Snow Buntings but the sea was choppy and no Scoters could be found. Having enjoyed great success at both Eldernell and Holkham we decided to give the Wareham Green Pallid Harrier another go having dipped it on new years day. We parked this time on the concrete pad down Garden drove and walked down to the marsh finding a smart Great Egret feeding close in. As we scoped the raptor action started with first Marsh Harrier then a ring-tailed Hen Harrier followed by our first views of the Pallid Harrier as it came in and flew low through the grass along the front edge of the pines. We enjoyed views of more Marsh Harriers and a couple more RT Hens along with a couple of Merlin several Barn Owl, Kestrel, Buzzard and Sparrowhawk but as the light fell the crowd waiting lost patience and started to depart we found ourselves as last men standing along with Jamie M who at 4.45pm just as we'd started putting scopes away called that the Pallid was returning to roost. It flew over from behind us and went straight to roost.

Brent Geese

Grey Partridge

Great and Little Egret

Shorelarks and Snow Buntings


I celebrated a thoroughly enjoyable days birding, twelve raptor species and the ten year ticks with a stop at MR Chips in Swaffham on the way home.

Year list now 142

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