Sunday 22 February 2015

More Hawking and almost Special K

Cold and clear at dawn with a light northwesterly. An adult Iceland Gull gracefully flapped over the road by Bustardthorpe Allotments and then off west over the Knavesmire. I swung the car on to the verge, jumped out with bins in hand but sadly the bird was heading directly away so I couldn't check it for grey in the primaries, although I suspected it could have been one of the adult Kumlien's Gulls that have been knocking about.
I picked up Tom and we did a slight detour via this lonely Waxwing, virtually outside my grandparents' old house on Becky Lane. I got a quick phonescoped shot of the bird in the top of a nearby Birch and left before it descended to the Cotoneaster bush and the waiting long-lens paparazzi.

Up to the forest and within a few minutes, we picked up a very distant pair off Goshawks, the female of which put on a rather spectacular display, doing a series of switchbacks complete with wing-folding stoops and vertical climbs. Shortly, a pair of Gos got up over the near ridge - both immatures; the birds I had seen on Tuesday. An adult male then appeared and powered across the valley, looking dazzling slate and white in the early morning sunshine. The male appeared again a few minutes later and chased the immature male out of the valley. Over the other side, we picked up the adult female who circled around and gave a few bouts of harrier-flight. She swooped into the top of a bare larch providing cracking - thought distant - views through the scope. Her huge yellow feet, shaggy trousers and undertail coverts and broad white supercilium were obvious even from this distance. Sadly, my pathetic attempt at a phonescoped shot don't do her justice.

We went down into the valley and tried a few vantage points, but didn't really get better views. Goshawks always seem to appear in the place you were standing previously! We moved down to where I had had good views of a displaying female on Tuesday and sure enough within a few minutes we picked her and a more distant bird circling over the forest. A third bird, an immature came in over the forest and landed distantly in a tree. After a bit, Tom mentioned the original female was being mobbed by two tiny birds: Merlins! These feisty little birds, with wingspans literally half hers, harried her mercilessly for about ten minutes, taking it in turns to dash in, pulling up vertically at the last minute. The Gos just ignored them, occasionally ducking slightly out of the way of their attacks, but not really bothering. The falcons got bored and then the Gos decided to put on a bit of a show and dropped in front of us and came across the forest in slow harrier flight, with tail coverts spread, looking very impressive indeed. A little later we decided to head home, satisfied with our good fortune.

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