Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Double Buzzard!

Once is lucky, twice looks like a pattern...

I saw a Common Buzzard in Roberts Park, Saltaire, the other day. Not something you see every day in a manicured, suburban, West Yorksire park, but a Buzzard nonetheless. It was a particularly pale individual, but these are variable birds. Its markings and general size and shape all added up to Common Buzzard - broad, pale underwings with dark primary tips, shortish wide tail, cream-coloured underside with brown speckles, darker brown upperparts, right size and shape, etc. I also checked with Salts Estates at the nearby Salts Mill that no falconer had been operating in the area (they have previously used Harris Hawk and Lanner Falcon to control pigeons on the Mill), but they stopped using falconers in 2010.

But today, I saw another one, but half a mile away. I was picking my daughter up from Rainbows (Brownies for under 7s), when a large bulky bird caught my eye, seemingly quartering the park in the distance. I watched it for maybe 30 seconds, then a further 10 seconds from a longer distance. My two-year-old son was running around the busy car park so I was struggling to concentrate, but I did get my bins on it for 10 seconds or so.

The bird was maybe 300 metres away at first, heading slowly west - it came slightly closer. It was over Northcliffe Park when I first saw it and appeared to be hunting. At first I thought it might be a Red Kite, as it had a lazy flapping motion and slightly shaggy appearance, holding it's wings in a shallow V (almost Marsh Harrier-like, though not so pronounced). There ware no marking on the upperwings - they were pretty uniformly dark brown. I ruled out female Sparrowhawk because of the bulk of the bird (it was much bigger than the Jackdaws that eventually came to mob it) and the slow, almost laboured, wing-flapping.

It was a much darker bird than the one I saw last week in Saltaire - a different individual. This bird's underwings had mostly thick dark brown/black edges, white/buff away from the edges. The breast/belly on the Roberts Park bird was the colour of pine furniture (I've just moved house, so I'm in soft-furnishings mode) whereas this guy was more mahogany. The wings were broad and the breast  deep. I saw no barring underwing, under tail, or on the breast.  Not an escaped Harris Hawk, and no Sparrowhawk - too big, dark, shaggy and bulky. No pale rump, tail-base, or flanks.

So, I'm certain it was a Common Buzzard, and a different individual than last week's bird. Believe me, Buzzards are not common round our way. Could a pair have taken up residence somewhere nearby? Seems unlikely, but... I'll keep 'em peeled.

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