Friday, 27 July 2007

The Return of the Honey Buzzard

Some picture posts on the birding I did on my summer break to Bridlington to come soon, first I should make mention of the new tick I picked up on the way north.

For many years Carburton/Wellbeck Raptor Watchpoint, near Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire, has been associated with Honey Buzzards. Since the 70's a small and infrequent population has been present on the vast private shooting estate of extensive mixed woodland. As antithetical as raptor conservation and shooting interests can be (sadly a matter of particular concern for Hen Harrier and Goshawk in Derbyshire at the moment), the arrangement at Carburton has always appeared fruitful.

However, since the early 2000's the migrant Honey Buzzard had been failing to return or stay, a change which some local birders attributed to the increasing population of Common Buzzard at the site creating unprecedented competition for territories. Of this I am dubious, the reasons for failed or successful Honey Buzzard migration is very poorly understood, it is unclear that two species do directly compete, and more indicatively, the Honey Buzzards are back! began getting regular reports again a couple of weeks ago and not wishing to miss what is aptly described as 'an
exotic breeding species', so close to my local patch, I made sure to give an hour to the site before heading for the seaside.

I saw the bird twice. First was when it appeared from nowhere very close to the lay-by, indeed it seemed startled and hastily soared back across the opposite hillside. The typical cream underwing and scarce barring was most noticeable (not in itself discerning the bird from a pale phase Common Buzzard), and then the extended head and long narrow tail confirmed it as a Honey. Can't say I noticed the tail barring described in the ID literature, but they say in the field it's seldom very obvious.
My second sighting was much more distant, yet much more spectacular. The bird lunged into great roller-coaster stoops, a typical display flight for the species. Chatting to another onlooker I was told a pair is present, and that is as much as anybody knows. Whatever conservation body is looking after the site remains highly secretive about the activity there, and quite rightly so.

With those sightings that makes #198 for my life list.

A couple of Osprey are also over-summering in the same area, although I sadly had no time for them on the day. Yes, that's two big and very rare migrant raptors at the same site. What are you waiting for?

During my vigil I picked up a lone wandering Raven, another top county bird - it's likely we don't have one breeding pair in Nottinghamshire.

Each of the three species I've mentioned here are on the increase. Whether it's global warming increasing insect/grub food items for the 'Bee Hawk' (up to maybe 200 UK pairs now), the successful reintroduction programme for Ospreys at Rutland, or reduced persecution for the Raven, there's genuine reason for great optimism for these birds. How refreshing is that?
Now all we need is a pair or two of Red Kite to join in the fun. I look forward to them.

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