Thursday, 22 June 2017

Honey Buzzards on Forest

Finally that time of year is here, Mid May and time to get on Forest and start looking for that summer migrant Raptor - The Honey Buzzard

I arrived on site at Location 6 at 07.45 and at 08.10 a white male lifted out circling low over the wood before pickig up a thermal and drifted off. At 10.55 the same individual reapeared and dropped in below before reaprearing and then began gaining height before going in to a roll as if from 2 on a clock and rolling down and up as if to 11  on a clock and began wing clapping, each peak reached was followed by an explosive show of 2 bouts of wing clapping, this was repeated 11 times ! "Game On and the season has begun".

This show was by the white male (above) with damage to to the central tail feathers and worn primaries and a rather unique brown neck that joins the blue/grey hood. I have also seen this individual wing clapping with prey visible held in the talons this season. 

Several visits passed without any sighting of a female and I was some-what slightly concerned by this as I have always seen two birds together at any of the locations during previous years, very early in the season. The continued wing clapping also added to my concern.

One morning I set up at location 6 and was hoping for some activity to give some evidence that birds were on territory, at just before 09.30 a barred male came in over my head from behind me, flew away from me, half circled allowing a good view of the underwing, underparts before dropping behind a block of trees not to be seen again, This is the only barred male I have seen this season and I do not seem to see many barred males on forest these days, maybe this is the bird that has been showing at Acres.

By 11.00 I decided to move to look over a different wood at location 7. The hours passed slowly and I was starting to feel a little negative of this site when at 16.20 a male Honey Buzzard came in quick and low in strong light due to angle of the sun and dropped in to the wood in front. Twenty minutes later a bird began lifting out in front and as I observed the bird in the scope I realised that this was a female Honey Buzzard ! "Result! thats better" the female, a rather large individual continued to lift, circling and lifting each time on a thermal gaining height and coming closer each time in my direction, at one point the wing tips were edge to edge within the scope. She lingered in the area on and off for around 10 minutes before going on a direct line and lost to view. That was it, great stuff and 8 hours of seeing no evidence of territory behaviour had finally paid off with an in, a change over and an out. 

Over the course of the following weeks the activity had gone pretty quiet with lift outs at the start of the day being path of the course, however one visit the male lifted out as if panicked returning back to the wood and then up again of which the two of us (MD) were puzzled why this was happening and then there was the answer, an intruding female below, this is not the resident female of this site but a visiting bird. The individual below had caused some difference of opinions to it's sex and some believed this to be a dark male, in the end to save any more debate I sent the photo to several people of which one was Dick F who agreed that this was a female. 

A few vsists later I was sat again at location 7 by 07.30 and the female came in to view at 09.40 dropping in on a direct line in to the wood. Some 15 minutes later male above lifted out and circled, thermalled and then began wing clapping, This went on for 12 times the highest count I have had in a single wing-clapping session during the spring "this is a beautiful and truly amazing spectacle to be privalidged to witness, definatley the highlight of Forest birding in the summer season". As I watched, enjoying this show I wondered why this was happening and presumed that maybe the visiting female from the previous week was closeby when a second Honey Buzzard enterred the scope view and began mirroring the flight of the male above but this was not the presumed female but another white male, a pristine individual, with no damage or wear to any feathers, two white male Honey Buzzards in the same view in the scope copying and mirroring the other's flight. I just enjoyed this moment until both birds went off in different directions.  I suspect that this is the male from location 6 and that this male at location 7 was the first bird within this area and so was on the lookout from a female from this site as I think that maybe some birds came in late this May and that supports the continued show of wing clapping from this male.

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