Saturday, 5 November 2016

Raptors & Avocets at Middlebere & Hartland Moor

Wednesday, 2nd November.  
As Nick and I arrived at our meeting place some of the group were already watching a Dartford Warbler sat up on a gorse bush.  A good start to a brilliant morning, the weather was also glorious, though a bit chilly.  Walking across to Hartland Moor we had Meadow Pipits calling and flying around the heather while we scanned over for raptors.  We encountered a few more Dartfords, with a total by the end of our walk of 6 showy individuals.   

Fran picked up our first raptor with a distant Kestrel followed by a Buzzard.  A Raven called and we followed him for a while then another bird of prey came into view.  However this bird was flying quite high but rather distantly, it was Nick who realised it was a Marsh Harrier.  Thankfully it came a little closer and much lower so we could see it well.  It appeared to be a 2nd calendar year male, it perched up on a bush which allowed us to get scope views.  Then we realised a second bird was flying low towards it but went to the ground near to our first bird, though the latter went to join it shortly afterwards.  Then the two harriers flew up and seemed to be interacting but not aggressively, we could then make out we now had two young males.  Fascinating to watch them.

Two waders flew up and as they turned we could see they were Snipe, probably disturbed by the harriers.  They were obviously unsettled and it was quite a while before they went back down.  Back to the path and a Mistle Thrush sat up on the hedging and we got our first Stonechat, a female and a few Skylarks were heard flying over.  We made the decision to turn back and walk over to Middlebere.

At Tim's Tump Rod pointed out a bird perched in a bare silver birch tree, so glad he did it was a superb male Merlin.  We all had good scope views before moving round to the Harrier Hide in the hope to get a bit closer.  Though we tried hard not to be seen, even crouching to look under the hide, gaining a wet knee in the process, it clocked us fairly quickly and was off in a flash!  Not before Joe showed his fieldcraft managing to get this photo below, though still a bit distant.

Male Merlin © Joe Baldwin
Walking down to the Middlebere track we could see a flock of Lapwing flying round by the channel.  Other birds added to the list as we walked to the hide included Bullfinch, Jay, Linnet as well as the more common species you expect.  The ivy was attracting Red Admiral butterflies, Ivy bees and a Hornet.  As we neared the cottages a Green Sandpiper was spotted on the wet meadow.

From the hide a huge number of waders had been attracted in by the lowering tide, with about 300 Avocets plus Black-tailed Godwits, Dunlin, Curlew, Redshank, Wigeon, Shoveler, Teal.  I'm sure there was more to be seen but now time meant we had to leave, then another male Marsh Harrier came through and this was definitely a different individual from our Hartland Moor birds as it was moulting its primaries.  A great finale for a brilliant morning!

Marsh Harrier at Middlebere © Joe Baldwin

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