Monday, 24 December 2007

Brambling, Frieth. 23rd December 2007.

I headed off to Chisbridge Lane near Frieth today hoping to catch up with a reported Brambling flock feeding in the fields adjacent to the road, upon arrival the finch flock scattered from the field with birds heading in every direction. I waited in the car and before long the flock started returning to the field to feed, many of the flock perched in the trees by the lane and scanning through them I finally picked out a number of Brambling amongst the Chaffinch and Yellowhammer. A single Reed Bunting was present and at least a couple of Greenfinches. It seems to be a good year for Brambling with numbers already reaching over 600 at a favoured roosting site at Penn Woods near High Wycombe.

The Downs, Berks. 22nd December 2007.

Short-eared Owl

A cold grey day greeted me on my visit to the Berkshire Downs today, the aim was to see the female Hen Harrier that had been present for a few days and the wintering Short-eared Owls.

I arrived at the car park and made my way along the Ridgeway towards Bury Down where two figures in the distance soon showed themselves as Berks birds webmaster Marek Walford and my now good friend Roy Rose, both were watching the Female Hen Harrier which was sat just inside the Oxon border. Although distant we watched the Harrier before it took to the air and flew along the Oxon/Berks border, it flew low and leisurely across the fields scattering finch and thrush flocks from nearby bushes as it went and then disappeared from sight over the brow of a field. Roy then managed to pick up on a couple of Brambling that where sat in bush along with Corn Bunting, Yellowhammer and various other finches. Skylarks could be heard singing and although we searched the fields the Lapland Bunting that was reported the previous day couldn't be found, a few Fieldfare and Redwing were seen in flight and a few singles were seen feeding on berry bushes as I walked towards Bury Down.

We then made our way towards Cow Down in the hope of spotting a Short-eared Owl, we waited patiently scanning the bushes but to no avail but had the luck of spotting the Hen Harrier crossing back across the fields this time inside Berks airspace, it hung in the air as it slowly quartered the fields heading eastward before again losing sight of it as it disappeared behind the contours of the field. As expected Red Kite, Kestrel and at least 4 Stonechats were found across the downs and even the odd Partridge call could be heard in the distance.

Finally we managed to see the Short-eared Owls on Cow Down with at least 5 birds being present maybe even 6, one of which was a extremely pale individual which came under some close attention from another Short-eared Owl after it caught a mouse/vole. One of my favourite birds to see and watch and I never really tire of watching them as they glide across the downs in search of food.

Added To My Year List.

211. Hen Harrier (Bury Down, Berks)

212. Short-eared Owl (Cow Down, Berks)

Where Eagles Dare, White-tailed Eagle at Shipton Bellinger, Hampshire.

It's not often a White-tailed Sea Eagle sighting is reported in England, most reports are from Scotland were the relocation project is well under way. so the news that a juvenile had been seen on a regular basis in Hampshire had me rather excited. I've never seen a White-tailed Sea Eagle and the chance to see Europe's largest raptor in the wild was very appealing, the major question was whether it was an escapee from a local zoo. I waited eagerly to find out and finally Lee Evans had the information I was waiting for, a Juvenile White-tailed Eagle(Sea Eagle) born in 2007 and ringed in Finland or Sweden July 2007.

Saturday came and I was greeted by a damp and grey day, by the time I picked Berks bird race team mate Roy Rose up a small hint of sunshine popped out from the clouds only to disappear again behind the now gloomy skies.

We arrived at the viewing area and by now it was cold,grey and damp, 20 or so people were at the viewing site, the usual questions flowed between arriving birder's "any sign of it" too which the replies were " it was seen earlier this morning but no sign since". Roy and I waited patiently observing Raven, Buzzard, Peregrine, Sparrowhawk and a possible Merlin flying low across the fields in the distance during our wait. We were joined by a birder from Herts. and continued to chat about the Eagle when a number of pagers started going off, the chorus of pagers ringing across the waiting watchers only added to my tension and finally a voice piped up and announced the Eagle had been seen over Shipton Bellinger. I mulled over the options, do we go and search at the last sighted location or do we wait for the Eagle to return to one of it's favoured haunts, we conversed and decided to wait and before long more birders arrived with the surprising news that they were at Shipton and hadn't seen anything!.

The rain then started, first a small shower then the skies opened and a cool breeze blew across the Hampshire landscape, we decided to have a drive to see if we could spot anything and make it back to the viewing area in case it came in to roost. Off to Quarley we headed soon meeting birders dotted around the quiet country lanes, "any luck" we inquired but luck wasn't on our side and we returned to the viewing area 30 minutes later without sight or sound.

As the light started to fade an old land rover came chugging in to the field, it could be no other than the farmer. We chatted and he told us of the first sighting he had in one of his fields, he pointed out that at first it looked like a large Turkey at long distance as it walked over the ground, he soon realised it was no turkey when it took to the air being harried by Crows and Jackdaws, his next sighting a few days later was above his house as the bird circled on the thermals before drifting off. He seemed very happy that the bird was visiting his land and hoped that the Eagle would hang around, his enthusiasm for the Eagle was extremely pleasing. After chatting with the farmer for sometime we finally made our way back to the car and headed off home with the hope that it will hang around long enough to get another chance to see it.