Saturday, 27 February 2010

Break in the weather

From top: Common Buzzard, Red-legged Partridge and Waxwing.

At least in our part of the country, this long, cold winter seems to be turning into a long, wet winter. I was in Norfolk briefly yesterday on a non-birding visit, and it rained almost incessantly from dawn to late afternoon. Sunshine eventually broke out too late for enjoyable viewing of the birds that I encountered en route, which included 100+ European White-fronted, 20+ Greylag and the best part of 1,000 Pink-footed Geese, as well as a Marsh Harrier (with two more harriers together near Ely, Cambridgeshire, on the way home). But unusually, it was threatening to shine again at daybreak this morning, so I made the most of a dryish start and headed to a site on the edge of the London Area.

Red Kite used to be a rarity in the capital, occurring mainly on spring migration, but in more recent years records have increased. Many of these relate to wandering birds from the now-thriving Chiltern population, which has expanded to the point where odd birds regularly stray eastwards to London's borders. This morning, at a private site where I have seen the species before, three birds were present, one of them being constantly harried by a crow; a passing shower duly dispersed them, but subsequently a Common Buzzard shwed well - another large raptor which has spread its range and now breeds close to the city.

More rural in character than most of my London birding haunts, this area can be good for a range of farmland birds too, and as well as Pheasants, Skylarks and assorted corvids the morning's haul included five Red-legged Partridges, Green Woodpecker and a cracking male Yellowhammer.

With the weather deteriorating again, I headed for home but made a short detour northwards to Finchley, where one of the very few Waxwings to appear this winter has taken up temporary residence. Its favoured location made a change from the usual supermarket car parks - this time it was a hawthorn by a Total petrol station. When I arrived the bird was more distant, having already had a good feed on berries, and when it did attempt to return to the tree a Jackdaw drove it away for some reason. Hence these distant shots (below), taken when the bird was in poplars opposite the garage at College Farm.

Waxwing was my 122nd species in London so far this year. Both despite and because of the weather, it has been a productive winterfor birds , and on the penultimate day of the month the first returning Little Ringed Plover has already been reported. Before any more spring migrants reach the country, however, a major storm has been forecast to hit the south coast tomorrow. Things could get interesting, especially on the big reservoirs in south-west London.


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