Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Summer Raptors Rapture

In the spring/summer term we should come across several bird of prey species.

A bird which has increased noticeably in the last few years, and which has proved extremely popular with the classes is the diminutive fast-flying Hobby. We will probably observe this dashing summer visitor having a snack on the wing - may be a dragonfly, but possibly even a Swallow or a Martin! We will be going to several locations where an encounter with this species is a real possibility & if we're lucky we will get almost a good a view, as in the the picture below!

Hobby (c) 2012 Mick & Kath Sharpe - a dashing favourite
Hobby (c) 2012 - Fast food consumption - food on the go!
There are a couple of venues along the Humber where we are guaranteed views of this impressive, large, slow-flying species. In some parts of Yorkshire they are still a relatively scarcely seen bird, but on the Humber we now almost take them for granted. If we are lucky we may seem them skydancing, although we may have already missed this spectacle this year!

Young Marsh Harrier (c) 2012 Chris Cox
Marsh Harrier in flight - easy to see along the Humber
Like the Hobby, the Honey Buzzard is a summer visitor, but this is much more difficult to come across in a casual way. We are therefore visiting a raptor viewpoint, where we may have a chance of watching them display. Their predilection for nests of wasps and bees is unique among British raptors, and they are beautifully marked, as the picture below illustrates.

Honey Buzzard (c) 2012 Vince Cowell - going on a special trip to try & see them
Yet another summer visitor is the Osprey, and like the Hobby its numbers have been rising in the past few years. 3 classes have now seen an Osprey during the duration of the course, so now I just have to ensure that it is spotted by the Tuesday, Thursday and Wednesday pm sessions.
Osprey [silhouette] - keep your eyes to the skies
The birds of prey I've mentioned so far, which have been increasing, have done so by natural means aided by specific programmes to improve habitat and possible breeding sites. However, the Red Kite is a resident bird of prey, which increased because of a pro-active intervention by humans: a reintroduction programme. Although the nearest scheme was nearly 50 miles away, the Red Kite has become a welcome addition to the fauna of the wolds, and which we may even observe floating above our car park.

Red Kite - may drift over our car park
Although the Buzzard isn't yet as numerous here, as it is in other parts of the UK, we now may encounter it in the bleakest, most flat areas of our county, as well as over woodland, and the more hilly districts which are more typical of this species.

Buzzard - becoming a more common sight
The Peregrine has also increased in recent years, and we've already enjoyed it plunging vertically at nearly 100 miles an hour, just the other week. This is a bird we are most likely to observe at some coastal sites.

Peregrine (c) 2012 Vince Cowell - may spot one on the coast
The Kestrel is still the bird of prey we are likely to see most often, and there is a good chance we will see one virtually every week

Kestrel - will probably be observed most weeks
The Sparrowhawk is supposed to be more numerous than the Kestrel these days, but because of its more secretive habits we may just catch a quick view as it hunts for its prey along a hedgerow. If we are a little luckier we may find a pair involved in their display flight, or we may see one with its prey, as this bird plucking a Starling!

If you are interested in seeing some or all of the raptors featured on this post, then there is still time to secure a place on the Tuesday afternoon course starting on April 17th, but time is running out!

Sparrowhawk - will get a glimpse most weeks & some weeks a decent view

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