A raptor day....26th November 2009

We decided to pay a visit to Weirwood Reservoir in East Sussex, in the hope that the Grey Phalarope would still be present.
On arrival, we scanned the mud from the car park near the hide but the bird proved hard to spot. Some 15 minutes passed before we eventually noticed it in the distance scurrying around on the mud.
Unfortunately, during our stay, it never approached close enough to get a good photo but it was still a good sighting for us.

GREY PHALAROPE at Weirwood Reservoir, East Sussex

GREY PHALAROPE at Weirwood Reservoir, East Sussex

Other birds of note seen at Weirwood included a Marsh Tit and a Nuthatch on the feeders and around 6 Siskins and a Lesser Redpoll feeding high on an alder. About twelve Common Snipe flew low over the area in front of the hide and a Green Sandpiper was feeding on the mud. A female Sparrowhawk grabbed a small item of prey from the ground not far from us and flew off with it. Four Roe Deer were out on a dry area of the reservoir in front of the hide.

MARSH TIT at Weirwood Reservoir, East Sussex

at Weirwood Reservoir, East Sussex

We next decided to visit Bough Beech Reservoir in West Kent before heading for RSPB Elmley in North Kent to see if we could add Merlin and Short-eared Owl to our year lists.
Bough Beech Reservoir was as quiet as I have ever seen it, with little of note apart from a few Fieldfares.

So it was on to Elmley. We arrived there at 11.45 a.m. and scanned the area behind the toilet block for raptors. A Marsh Harrier was quartering the ground in the distance and Paul noticed a small raptor perched on a distant gate post out on the marshes, a female Merlin, which flew off low across the marsh in typical dashing flight.

Female MERLIN at RSPB Elmley Marshes, North Kent

Behind the orchard, at least 20 Curlews were feeding on the short grass. Heading down to the sea wall, Paul spotted something on the ground in the distance and we were soon scoping a superb female Peregrine.

Female PEREGRINE at RSPB Elmley Marshes, North Kent

Further along the track there were 2 Stonechats and on arriving at the first hide we spotted another 2 Marsh Harriers and a Common Buzzard and then the female Merlin appeared from nowhere and started to persue a small passerine. The agility of this small raptor was amazing, with sharp twists and turns and vertical climbs that the Red Arrows would have been proud of. Eventually the Merlin snatched its prey from the air and headed off into the distance. A Kestrel was on a fence post not far from the hide but, apart from a few Shovelers and a large flock of Lapwings, not much else was on show.
We then went on to the South Fleet hide where the Peregrine had relocated to distantly (or was it a second bird). Another Stonechat was noted in the area but, as the sun was getting low in the sky, we decided to head back.
Nearing the bend in the track that heads back to Kingshill Farm and the car park, we spotted a Barn Owl and another Marsh Harrier and in the distance to the west there were 2 Common Buzzards soaring together. Another two Barn Owls suddenly appeared and we were briefly treated to the sight of the two birds hunting together not far from the track. We had superb close views but we were kicking ourselves as both of us had flat batteries in our cameras by now but, as the chilly and windy conditions had not been condusive to digiscoping today we and the light was fading fast, we probably wouldn't have got any decent shots anyway.
No Short-eared Owls seen, but definitely a good raptor day.

Paul & Graham

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