Sunday, 23 November 2008

Rough-legged Buzzard (Buteo lagopus) - Reed, Herts & Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) - The Lodge, Sandy, Beds. 19th November 2008.


Having never seen Rough-legged Buzzard before I was excited to hear of one being found in Hertfordshire. I Read the reports about it on Lee Evans's UK400 Club Rare Bird Alert blog( and contacted Roy Rose. We soon planned a trip up to see it and I informed Roy that a small Waxwing flock was present at "The Lodge" RSPB reserve in Bedfordshire and we agreed to go and see them as well. We would also try and hopefully stop off at Port Meadow and Farmoor Reservoir in Oxfordshire on the way home.

We arrived north of Reed Village, Herts. and soon found ourselves at Hatchpen Farm, after spotting 2 Red Kites drifting over the fields we parked in the lay-by at the entrance to the farm. We walked up the road to a small gathering of people who were viewing the fields towards the A10 who informed us the Rough-legged Buzzard had drifted over the fields to the west side of the A10 and then had dropped down out of sight, we were directed to a church spire in the distance and told that it was last seen in that area. Everybody scanned the fields and suddenly somebody cried "it's up", a brief view was given before the bird dropped down out of sight but within seconds it appeared drifting slowly over the fields again. It flew across the fields gaining height as it went which gave good views of both the under and upperwings, the white tail and broad tail band clear to see as well as the dark belly, a very clean and fresh looking juvenile/sub adult bird. We all watched it as it continued to drift over the fields before briefly hovering and then dropping out of sight, it remained out of sight for 20 or so minutes before showing briefly again as it drifted along a brow of a hill on the west side of the A10 and again it dropped down out of sight. We waited for another 30 minutes without any further sightings and decided to head off to Sandy to find the Waxwings. By the time we left we had seen 5 birds of prey which included of Red Kite, Rough-legged buzzard, Common Buzzard, Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk which was circling over the lay-by.

We made our way from Reed to The RSPB headquarters at Sandy, Bedfordshire in search of the Waxwings, arriving at the Lodge Roy and I checked the trees at the gatehouse with no luck and headed off down the gateway trail path listening out for the "trilling" calls of the Waxwing, seeing and hearing nothing we returned along the path to the gatehouse where we once again scanned the trees. It was at this point when a gentlemen from the offices at the Lodge who was on his lunch hour took us to another location nearby where the Waxwings had been visiting, sadly there was no sign of them and we wandered back to the gatehouse for one last check around the reserve entrance. The fields around the Lodge hosted a few Stock Doves, good numbers of Goldfinch and a lone Siskin in the Lodge garden. There was still no sign of any Waxwings and after having a look in the RSPB shop we wandered back to the car where we met somebody getting out of his car with a camera, he asked us if we had seen the Waxwings and we told him we had been looking for them for but hadn't seen them. Roy and I decided to get in the car and drive along Potton Road to see if we could locate them, we had already seen a number of berry bushes that had been striped of a few berries along the road and felt that perhaps we might be able to have a quick look. As we headed to the car a very friendly couple approached us and asked if we were looking for the Waxwings, they then told us that they were sat in a large Oak tree about 500yrds along Potton Road, we thanked them and headed off to the car. Driving along Potton Road we soon saw them perched in the Oak tree next to the road, finding a place to park we viewed from distance and counted 10 perched in the tree. Walking along Potton road we came to the Oak tree with the waxwings perched above, their "trilling" calls could now be heard clearly above the constant drone of passing vehicles. They preened methodically and continually for sometime before flying down to the berry bushes on the roadside opposite us, the traffic didn't help and although 2 or 3 would stay feeding when cars passed but the large lorries soon flushed them and back to the Oak tree they returned. This continued for the next 30 minutes with the birds coming down to feed in groups of 4 or 5 staying until another vehicle flushed them back to the tree, finally the whole group came down to feed and after 5 minutes of devouring berries they took to the air and headed off back towards the Lodge reserve.

Waxwing Video

Leaving Sandy we headed south towards Oxford with the hope of visiting both Port Meadow and Farmoor Reservoir, time really wasn't on our side and due to traffic congestion approaching Oxford we soon realised that it would be a very tight squeeze to get to both locations before the sun went down. We finally arrived at Port Meadow with the sun starting to fade and a walk along from the public car park found us viewing the floods, neither of us had been to Port Meadow before and it was impressive to see both good numbers of birds and a good variety of species in close proximity to the City itself. Waders included a flock of 100 or so Golden Plover, 2 Redshank feeding along the waters edge with Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit and Dunlin. As dusk approached the Gull roost started to swell with both Black-headed and Herring Gulls making an appearance, we headed off in the hope of getting to Farmoor but were soon stuck in traffic as the sun set, there was no way we would get there and decided instead to head for home.(The Port Meadow blog run by Adam Hartley can be found here )

As we neared my home I mentioned to Roy that many of the local herds of Deer could be crossing the country lanes and to be careful, they have a tendency to walk straight out in front of you just when you least expect it, as we turned the next corner we came face to face with a herd of Fallow Deer crossing the lane in front of us. Great views as they passed a metre in front of the car and we couldn't have timed it better.

Added To My Year List.

217. Rough-legged Buzzard
218. Waxwing
219. Ruff

Added To My Life List.

307. Rough-legged Buzzard

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