Sunday, 9 November 2014

Not so Rough

A morning safari around the fens east of the Washes with Andy was full of birds.  We enjoyed several large flocks of Whooper Swans twinkling against the black soils and Golden Plover and Lapwing were on the wing all over.  Where the washes have flooded wildfowl was crammed in with large gatherings of Shoveller, Wigeon and Teal peppered with an occasional drake Pintail.  Lapwing and Golden Plover flocked in increasingly large and impressive numbers. 

We headed down to Welney and hopeful that we may get lucky and see the Rough-legged Buzzard that has been seen intermittently during the week.  Having looked over the reserve from several vantage points awaiting the terribly well mannered 10am opening of the reserve we continued to enjoy swathes of duck, plover and godwit.  From the observatory we noted an odd looking female Aythya hybrid looked exactly how you'd imagine the offspring of a Tufted Duck and Pochard should.  A huddle of 6 wild swan that flew across the back of the washland looked short necked and goosey enough to be likely Bewick's Swan but were the only candidates seen.  On leaving the reserve we were told that the Rough-legged Buzzard had been reported earlier in a field along the approach from the A10. 

As we drove slowly along this road we saw a straw headed Marsh Harrier sat out in the stubble, the cynic in me allowed my heart to sink and I suspected a misidentification.  However, glory be, 20 metres along the road we had to stop as, within spitting distance, the Rough-legged Buzzard sat along the ditchside.  The views were cracking and after watching it for a minute or two the prospect of scoping it and perhaps getting a frame filling photo became to much to resist.  Our position meant that I could slip out of the door unseen and set the scope up without flushing it.  No sooner had I set the scope up and had seconds to drink in the brilliant Buteo then some bad luck struck. 

My view was obscured by a carload of birders, well.... folk with bins, who had just driven past the Rough-leg and wound down their window to ask if I was stalking the distant swan flock.  I told them, to no hint of recognition, that there was a Rough-legged Buzzard just outside their window. They were so pleased they pulled up behind me, got straight out of the car and flushed the bird.  It didn't move too far but didn't settle for any period until it went out of sight at a turn of the ditch .  Once the birders had moved on to get a good view of the Marsh Harrier, Andy and I walked the ditch edge and saw the buzzard well a couple more times.  I did manage to get some footage of the bird as it characteristically hovered along a wispy hedge row.  Despite the frustration an absolutely magical encounter with one of my favourite birds.