Tuesday, 6 September 2016

My bird of the year

Pegsdon Hills from the top
I hadn't visted Pegsdon Hills for a good few months since Saturday. It is one of my favourite places to go birding in autumn in Beds - it just has that air of something good always just around the corner. Over the years I've never found anything really special on the hills - the best I've managed have been a few Pied Flies, Merlin, and a Goshawk but nothing that really gets the heart pumping. In early September I'm really just looking for a Redstart or perhaps another Pied Fly, and half-expecting a Tree Pipit to fly over - its that sort of place.

So on Saturday morning I did my usual circuit - get up early and go straight to the few bushes around the trig point. I always start here as it often gets disturbed soon after dawn and I don't think the few bushes really hold birds very long. If you are lucky you may get a Whinchat or Tree Pipit on the fenceline below, or, more usually, some Wheatears on the south side where the rabbit warren is - and that's all I got on this morning - five Wheatears chasing each other around. They are always nice to see, so I spent a little while getting some digiscoped shots of one of them. I eventually tear my self away to have another quick look around the trig point bushes again - still quiet - so I amble westwards towards the middle valleys.
Wheatear, Pegsdon Hills, 3rc Sept 2016

Wheatear, Pegsdon Hills, 3rc Sept 2016
Wheatear, Pegsdon Hills, 3rc Sept 2016
One of the five Wheatears near the trig point

The bushes were very quiet as I pass the terraces and the incessant mewing of a juvenile Common Buzzard came from the woodland in the middle of the site. A few Yellow Wags had gone over but precious little else - I'd not even seen a Red Kite so far this morning.

I began to wander down to the bottom of the hill, I could hear a few Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps on the opposite side of the valley I was on - a Whitethroat called too. I could see Andy Grimsey looking through the same mixed flock from the other side so I decided to head down to meet him.

We met in the bottom of the valley and stood looking up at the thick Elder bushes oppsite. They held a lot of birds - but mostly Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Long-tailed Tits and Blue Tits. We kept looking through the flock just in case it held something more exciting. After a while I noticed a Red Kite off to the left. What appeared to be a Common Buzzard was with it. I casually glanced at the birds through my bins, not really expecting to see anything out of the ordinary. The buzzard looked unusually dark. I quickly swapped to my scope. This was interesting. A very dark plumaged Buzzard, but with a stonkingly yellow cere! It had to be a Honey Buzzard! I made my conclusion know to Andy who was already watching the bird through his bins.

The views were great - no, better than great - outstanding for a Honey Buzzard! It was just a hundred meters away circling with the kite, in brilliant sunshine. Time to get the camera out. Both Andy and I began to fumble around for our cameras - Andy with his bridge camera, and I with my digiscoping kit. As luck would have it it headed our way and circled by itself just to the north of our position, before going in active flight off to our east and way past the trees - fan-bloody-tastic! I even had a little leap for joy.

Honey Buzzard, Pegsdon Hills, 3rd Sept 2016
Honey Buzzard, Pegsdon Hills, 3rd Sept 2016
Crippling Honey Buzzard views - real bird porn!
I even managed some video!

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