Saturday, 15 November 2014

Tawny owl 100% Pheasant 0%

This is the comparative survival rate of species encountered in contact with my car during the early period of November 2014.
I don’t hit many birds but nevertheless it was no great surprise to take out a pheasant in the gloaming on the way back from the Herts rough-leg. It didn’t stand a chance. The owl on the other hand landed on the road between my car and the one in front (being driven by wife Liz) causing me to swerve slightly. Not being sure whether I had hit it or not I performed some slightly dangerous manoeuvres and returned to the spot to find the owl squatting on the road. I stuffed it into my car boot and drove home.
By the time I arrived home there were sounds of movement from the boot – surely a good sign. This time I armed myself with some thick gardening gloves and opened up the boot. Out flew the owl. A happy ending, and if one bird had to die, then from an ecological perspective it’s probably best it was the owl that survived. The pheasant may well have ended up being blasted out of the sky anyway by some sadistic, trigger-happy individual (don’t get me started on that!)
As well as having an owl fly out of my car that day I also had aforementioned car towed out of a ditch. The Honda Civic Type-R is not known for its high ground clearance and would not have been my first choice of motor to try to park on the slightly mountainous verge with adjacent cavernous ditch. But it’s all I had and it soon came a cropper.

Ben oblivious to the rough-legged buzzard being mobbed in the background!
Two hours later the AA saw me right, and it actually worked out rather well. With more time on site I got progressively better views of the rough-legged buzzard and ended up with some good shots. Even if I had had earlier to put the AA operator on hold while I threw my phone into the car to photograph the fast-approaching buzzard. Oh yes, I also had to entertain a 3 year old while all this was going on. Young Ben got rough-leg on his list, too. Though I’m not sure if he was able to rule out common buzzard on his views.

Three days later and I was off chasing ducks - a drake green-winged teal at Berry Fen to be precise, followed by a ring-necked duck which tempted me over the border into Northants. I then headed to Grafham Water where I met up with a radio producer making a programme about gull enthusiasts. The gulls insisted on roosting approximately 47 miles out, so it was unsurprising I picked out little of interest. We eventually headed back, noting woodcock and tawny owl en route, only to find we had been locked in.

ring-necked duck, Kettering. Put out as a an ad female, but with that indistinct bill pattern, surely more likely a 1st winter bird?

And who can forget the two much appreciated garden ticks I've already had this month? Monday's flyover male bullfinch was certainly on the prediction list but the skittish black redstart which zipped around the rooftops one afternoon wasn't on my radar at all, being as it was just the second I've had in the county. It was even twitched by a local birder who needed it for his county year list. What an excellent year it has been for garden/ window additions!