26 October 2014

Wild is the wind

The week started breezy and squally; by Tuesday we were seeing the tail end of Hurricane Gonzalo.

A showery Monday stroll around the Langley office turned up three new visitors - cormorants high in a tree near the lake. A kingfisher flashed by, and not far away I found a field full of skylarks.

The next day's lunchtime stroll from the Radford Semele office was carried out in the teeth of Gonzalo.

This made most sightings fleeting at best, as the birds either hunkered down or belted past with the wind at their tail. The biggest birds were, of course, easiest to see and ID - a grey heron disturbed near the pond, a buzzard on the return track, a sparrowhawk flashing low over the house.

A goldfinch struggled overhead near the highest point of the hill, but a small flock of finches flitting in and out of stubble fields proved harder to identify - my best guess is a mix of juvenile and female yellowhammer, pale and washed out in the poor light.

And talking of difficult ID, I was pleased to read in Birdwatching magazine this month the trials of birders trying to ID a particularly pale and grey buzzard in and around the Staffs / Leics border region - variously called as either an osprey or a rough-legged buzzard. Having had a virtually identical wobbly ID moment with a buzzard only couple of weeks ago (see here), it was nice to see that I'm not the only one to be fooled by the hugely variable plumage of Buteo buteo.

There was, however, no mistaking the one I saw on the Fosse Way on the following day: for a moment I thought I would hit it as it struggled to gain height from the verge. Fortunately it cleared the top of my car in time, and a long scaly tail hanging beneath confirming a freshly-caught rat as the reason for this unusual struggle for altitude.

Bird of the week: Cormorant  (Phalacrocorax carbo), once very much a bird of shore and sea, now a regular sight at lakes and rivers around the UK, particularly as autumn arrives.

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