A kestrel hovers at Swanton Novers

My somewhat sporadic birding is hopefully now coming to an end as I should have more time from the middle of the month to get out and about. But today I did take a short trip to the raptor watchpoint near Swanton Novers, to look for European honey-buzzard.

So this evening I set out to rectify that missing species. I arrived at the site to find I was the only person there. Nice in some ways, but tricky if you’re not experienced with the species you’re searching for as another more experienced person (or three!) can be very helpful.

However I started off in the empty field with good views of some of the many small birds in the area – linnet, goldfinch, chiffchaff, common whitethroat – and also quickly saw a single goshawk. There were a couple of buzzards but I reckoned they were common ones. After about 20 minutes a couple turned up, but only had binoculars. They were probably good birdwatchers but at this watchpoint a telescope is pretty essential since the birds are often a long way off.

We continued scanning the far line of the Great Wood for about half an hour and then one more birder turned up, this time with a telescope. Chatting to him it was clear that he was pretty experienced and so I decided to stay a little longer in case he spotted anything. Between us we saw several more common buzzards and a lone hovering kestrel before we both started watching a promising bird circling over the trees. I think we were willing it to be a honey-buzzard and trying to see any distinctive wing, tail or head shape, but when this bird finally landed in a tree we were both unconvinced and decided, from the head shape, that this was another common buzzard.

Then the other three began to chat together whilst I was still scanning the trees. Suddenly a buzzard appeared a little nearer than some of the others had been. I got it in the telescope and it was immediately clear that it was different from a common buzzard in flight shape and pattern. It also had a longish tail and then it turned side on and I could see the distinctive honey-buzzard head shape. At that point I called over to the others and we all managed to see the bird for a minute or so before it disappeared below the tree line.

When I got home I checked my birding records and realised that I have only ever seen honey-buzzard once before: From the very same watchpoint in 1994 with a keen birding friend and musician Mark Denman, who was sadly struck down by cancer a few years ago. I think he would have been pleased that I was back at the same spot nearly 20 years later – a spot he introduced me to.

Brenda writes: “Today was a busy day with much driving around. The grass verges have changed. The alexanders has gone to seed, turning a rusty orange, with hogweed and great willowherb pushing above, and the edges¬†fringed with field bindweed and silverweed.

blood vein

The moth trap was quiet again but still held two nice moths – the gorgeous blood-vein and mother of pearl, pleuroptya ruralis, which – although it’s a micro – is bigger than the blood-vein!

mother of pearl

New species for July 5th:
Birds: honey-buzzard
Moths: blood vein, mother of pearl

Birds = 205
Moths = 164
Wildflowers = 234