Sunday, 8 June 2008

Red-footed Falcon  (Falco vespertinus) - Woolhampton Gravel Pits, Berks. 31/06/2008.

This Spring/Summer has seen an influx of Red-footed Falcons visiting our shores and many counties in the UK have been lucky enough to have hosted a number of individuals. Friday night I was planning a trip to see the closest Red-footed Falcon which happened to be Stewartby in Bedfordshire when an unexpected email arrived informing me that a pair had been seen at Woolhampton gravel pit's in Berkshire. The plans for Stewartby went out the window and should the pair remain at Woolhampton on Saturday I would make my way over to Woolhampton to see them. My first and only sighting of this fantastic Falcon was a 1st summer female which stayed from the 9th to the 19th of July at Moor Green Lakes near Eversley, Berkshire.

Arriving at Woolhampton early afternoon I parked up and made my way towards the pit's at the far end of the complex, a number of birders leaving the site let me know that the male had been seen and was associating with a number of Hobbies that were feeding around the pits and over the trees in the west of the gravel pits. My first year sighting of Turtle Dove was brief as a single bird flew over towards the old worksite hardly giving me time to see it through my binoculars.

I reached the location (SU566658) and it didn't take long before somebody spotted the male Red-footed falcon feeding up high with at least 8 Hobbies on the west side of the gravel pit's, finding it in the scope was an altogether different task as the sky was grey and overcast making it difficult to track amongst the Hobbies. It was soon pointed out that the Red-foot had one or maybe two central tail feathers missing which made it slightly easier to find. It continued to feed on the wing for over an hour sometimes being lost to sight behind a number of large Chestnut trees and reappearing moments later. It continued to show on and off for most of the afternoon and on one occasion flew overhead giving brief good views before disappearing around 5pm. Throughout the afternoon Red Kite, Buzzard and Kestrel all put in an appearance in the field next to us and with both Hobby and Red-footed Falcon added to the raptor experience. Skylark, Yellowhammer & Reed Bunting also putting in an appearance.

It was later whilst waiting for the Falcon to re-appear that I finally met one of Berkshire's premier bird photographers Jerry O'Brien, Jerry has an exceptional catalogue of Photos many of which can be found on Berksbirds and his own website Birds of Berkshire. It was great to finally meet Jerry as he has helped me with the creation of the TABCG website by allowing me to use some of his excellent photos taken in the Theale area. It was while we were chatting that another Turtle Dove flew over in the distance followed shortly by views of the Red-footed Falcon which Jerry spotted as it briefly showed feeding with the Hobby clan over the western pit before again being lost to sight.

Despite waiting till after 8pm the Red-footed Falcon was only seen briefly on a couple of occasions as it flew overhead and sadly it was impossible to digiscope.

Added To My Year List.

179. Red-footed Falcon

180. Turtle Dove

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