24 October, 2010

The Sunny South

After yesterday's seafest it was a change of pace today. Little car got a well-earned day off as I went for a wander around the Bolt with the folks. We did a loop from Bolberry to Bolt Head, then Starehole, East Soar, the airfield and Middle Soar, finishing with the Soar Mill valley. After a clear night with northerly winds, it was pretty much as dead as you'd expect - no hordes of Ring Ouzels and trees full of Firecrests and Yellow-brows for us!

There were a lot of Skylarks about - a passing flock of 40 gives a bare minimum figure - and a good variety of raptors, but the wind and the hordes of people milling around kept things quiet.This is not to say we saw nothing, in fact we had a few nice little encounters, and after it warmed up a bit the sun was positively balmy...

First sighting of note was two large skua spp., up high and well out to sea - I was expecting to see young gulls when I got on the 'odd dark birds', I admit, but they were... well, I'm not sure as they seemed too tail-y for Bonxies but definitely weren't Arctic and while 2 Poms are possible it's not likely, so 'skua spp.' they are. [[I'm pretty cautious about labeling skuas; of the 3 'spp.' yesterday, 2 were called by others as Pom, but I didn't really agree]].

After a long gap, with Green and Greater Spotted Woodpeckers at the RBF copse the best birds, I finally got on a Ring Ouzel behind Soar Mill - very briefly as it was flushed along with 2 Fieldfare by a low-flying Cessna.. Right before that we had an interesting encounter with a group of 8 Long-tailed Tits. Ok, why so interesting? Well, LTT there aren't that usual, but these little chaps gave good views of their pristine white breasts - A. c. europaeus! I wonder how long they've been here? There then followed, in karmic rebalancing, a Buzzard doing a very good SEO impression [sitting back towards us, feathers slightly fluffed to give the markings - *%£§€£ bird...].

Smarting from yet another Buzzard-based screw-up [like I'm not used to it - and to think I still feel sorry for them when I see them being crowed...] my feelings were rapidly salved by first a female Merlin flypast, then a female Sprawk giving a nice display of their soaring hunt. :) To cap things off with a 'Wow!', we were having a cuppa down slope [and thus out of the wind] near the car park when what should fly past but a frickin' Hobby! I'm pretty sure I've never seen one in October before [[and checking the DBR shows 22/10 is the average latest date for them 02-08, though the record is 9/12!]] and I couldn't quite believe my eyes. Earlier we'd seen 3 Swallows heading along, so perhaps it's not super late yet.

We also enjoyed some very showy Yellowhammers, a group of Linnets doing the Clown Car Routine from a very small Hawthorn bush, and with the usual Kestrel it was a 5 raptor day - not to be sniffed at.

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