Sunday, 15 March 2009

Breckland

After a late start, Carrie and I headed up to the Brecks for the day. Our first stop was Mayday Farm to look for Goshawks.

I haven't been to the site for over ten years, so much of the habitat has changed and was almost unrecognisable. Not really knowing where to look for Gos, I decided to follow two birders who were storming down the main drag - they were obviously heading somewhere! Eventually they stopped at a clearing, where another group of birders had gathered and hadn't seen anything for an hour. This was the spot.

The morning was heating up nicely with plenty of Buzzards on the wing, and one or two Sparrowhawks too. After about an hour Carrie picked up another 'Buzzard' while I was on the phone. I got my scope on to it and immediately recognised this as the hefty shape of a female Gos - yes! It circled round for a while with flaring white undertail coverts, before diving down behind some pines. Twenty minutes later another female came up, much further to the west, and moved off behind us. Not such good views as it was against the light, but its distinctive shape was more than enough to give it away. Another ten minutes went by and a male got up and gave excellent views right over head. These birds really are distinctive. They have long wings, often tapered, and remind me very much of the shape of Peregrines wings. The body and head are thickset, very unlike the 'paper thin' shape of a Sparrowhawk. They also have a completely different jizz when compared to Sparrowhawk - they are solid, and rock-steady when flying. When you see one, there's no mistaking it. 'Possible Goshawk'? There is no such thing! It either is, or isn't.

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With Gos in the bag, the aim of the day had been met. Everything else was going to be a bonus. 20 Crossbills were nice as they flew over the Gos spot, but were almost ignored in favour of the mega accipiter. We headed back to the car for some celebratory lunch - ham sandwiches never tasted so good!

After a bit of a drive round, not seeing Wood Larks, or Stone Curlews, we ended the day at Lakenheath. After a bit of gulling on the washland the Great Grey Shrike stole our attention. It performed beautifully, but unfortunately the sun had slid under a vail of cloud so no images. Great to watch, as it bounced from tree to ground, and back up to the next tree searching for insects. You could see a nice bit of vermiculation on its breast and flanks, making it a first-winter. A fitting end to the day, so we headed home.

Our roast dinner was interrupted by a call from Mr Palmer - the adult Kumlien's was again in the Stewartby roost. Phew - I thought it was going to be something much rarer! I can relax.

video

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