Archive for kestrel

Ziggy Zaggy, Snorty Pig and the Grey Ghost of the Borderlands…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 5, 2013 by abrandreth

In a couple of weeks myself and a group are traveling to the Forest of Dean, for another crack at one of Britain’s most controversial mammal species – a re-introduction with a propensity for damage and a bad attitude – the Wild Boar.

The weasel has had a couple of attempts at this species and come close a few times, both here and in the forest habitat in Normandy,but the quarry is proving to be very elusive…


Last August myself, Shellster (Mrs Weasel) and Ian and Andrea made the pilgrimage and dipped again, but the place was bulldozed and most areas showed the unmistakeable signs of the big pig and kin:Image

Boar are large, unpredictable beasts with a fearsome reputation and a varied diet, big males can weigh up to 120 kg,have a length of a metre and a half and carry a set of formidable tusks,extinct in the wild since the 17th Century, this is one species you do not want to startle.Escapes have populated feral individuals into mini herds, but considering their size, and probably owing to their persecution by hunters, they are notoriously difficult to see.

We spent a week in and around the area,taking time out at night and early morning – to no avail.

It was my first visit to the area, despite hearing good reports from people who had visited before, and its close proximity to Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Reserve.

Its a great place for Predators too, from Adders on a few reserves, to one of Britains only designated Raptor Watchpoints for the Grey Ghost – the mighty Goshawk, which despite looking for at New Fancy, I was the only one to see as a female bird broke cover in front of me, as the other members of the party came up the long route,(after I had gone hunting for Mr Ziggy Zaggy – a basking Adder on the way to the point) but later on this month they should be easier with hopefully spectacular early morning undulating flight displays to find a mate, and I defy anyone who wouldn’t be impressed by that.

Goshawks are one of my favourite Raptors,extremely difficult to call and seperate from the Sparrowhawk (especially males) but anyone who has seen footage of the bird hunting rabbits ON FOOT through a forest that was broadcast by the BBC a few years back, like a mini T.Rex cannot fail to be enraptured by the beast.Look for a Buzzard sized Sprog with a set of big white hips that looks like its on ‘the Big One’ at Blackpool Pleasure Beach with a big white supercillium above the eye that gives it a Batman like scowl and thats your beast!

I’ve got a hot date with one in a few weeks time!

New fancy supplied us with our only Reptile sp. a couple of Common Lizards, including the ‘Starless and Bible Black’ youngster and his mum, below:


It was nice to put a family with a young lad onto them as they basked in the sun, with the unmistakeable call of passing Common Crossbills overhead. A brief appearance in the morning of a passing Hobby was a bonus too, probably enroute to Africa, the red trousered little killing machine tazzed through the local Ravens like an Exocet!

Middle of the week saw us at the wrong place at the right time – we parked on the wrong side of Symonds Yat (who’s Archaeological remains contained a family of Hyenas and a Sabre Tooth) and after a 2 hour traverse of a muddy stretch of river bank and a light lunch with a boat across the Wye we approached the rock and watchpoint and soon got onto the resident Peregrines and their near full grown chicks, and a spectacular food pass,another site for Goshawk and a great point to view mammals from afar, but alas no Boars in sight and we even dipped the deer.

A brief morning where rain stopped play (well actually the car needed attention!) was probably for the best after staying up drinking whisky and watching the Perseid Meteor shower (superb!) after a trip with a bat detector to a farm pond (Daubs/Noctules/2 Pips/Long Eareds and an unfamiliar Myotis sp.) and a half hour of Owl teasing (to be explained in a later post!) and a butchers in Hereford Cathedral of the Mappa Mundi (and it was only a Thursday!) meant that the last day was a trip to Slimbridge.

Bird of the Day went to a badly Digiscoped Wood Sandpiper (with a standard Common Sand:)


Expensive but full of quality birds (Buzzards/more Peregrines and a very close up male Kestrel), when Shelly, who is just embarking on her birding journey says to all and sundry in the hide, and me especially “erm, do Badgers come out in the daytime?”


“Well, why is there one running along the fence here where the cows are?”

Blimey Charlie, she’s right too! as a very harassed looking Brock exits stage left, after a good staring at from a couple of British Longhorns, into a ditch and swims off scattering wildfowl as he goes!

An unexpected end to another great day.

Anyway Round Two happens on the 22nd of this month – keep watching the skies and checking the Weasel – a full and frank report on my return…



Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on January 31, 2013 by abrandreth

Doing the Treble…


at the moment my journey to work is around the 18 mile trip,with plenty of traffic jams and bridges to negotiate!


So, if you find yourself in a similar dilemma take a Weasel tip and do the local Raptor treble (well you didn’t think it was all about footy surely?)


3 quarry species achieved this morning: Kestrel,Common Buzzard and a cheeky ‘Sprog’…


the tally?




‘Tall Trees’ A49 crossroads – resident Kestrel always around if good weather and you know what to look for,medium compact raptor,sideways drop from street lighting rig and a flappy,shallow quick wingbeat and getting a scarce sight locally,unless you know a breeding pair (which we obviously keep to ourselves)


This bird last week brought up a mixed flock from the stubble field and up and over the high hedge,with the unmistakeable white rump of a orange stained Brambling gave me another year tick!


In Weasel related history the first raptor that floated the boat, me and a mate looking for ‘Kezzies’ along the back fields to Cronton,hopping hedges and fording ditches as we went.


Back to those crossroads and a dilemma,straight on or right?


Straight on  would give us a chance at the Buzzard who perches on the old Northwich ‘roman’ road,or,Left would mean a chance of BOPs (birds of prey? c’mon keep up at the back!!) through the village of Weaverham…and last week we did have a Sparrowhawk glide through and up and over the village sign by the Stables…


Just then a look ahead and a big ole’ steam-powered lorry goes right – on it is,but, we dip the Buzzard – buggeration!


Now in a fug and wondering why we made this schoolboy error, when, low slung and dirty, a male Sprog rattles practically through the wheel arch of the Weaselmobile after a free lunch from a passing passerine! Result!!



now then, one of my favourite creatures full stop, the Sparrowhawk/Sprog/Sprawk (if you must)


An accipiter,with a recognised range of hunting techniques,from perching and ambush predation,to hedge hugging and flipping over at the last minute,to acrobatic burst of energy at low heights,to upwardly mobile displays and flock bothering (try that mouthful when the Vicar comes around!),this light weight despoiler of bird tables,ever alert,dashing glide merchant is unparalleled for sheer open mouthed raptor rapture!


Close to my heart as ever this little beauty perched up outside chez weasel lair last Valentines day: apologies for poor shots but my main priority was to not disturb,


He stayed around for about half an hour or so then vanished during a brew break – the best of presents!


Anyway onwards and upwards (we will return to all things ‘Sprog” in a future post or twelve!) – Bring on the BIG boys,around the corner and out of Barton to run down the hill past the Antique Dealers and what do we have,throwing the full Bela Lugosi stance perched in the trees opposite the big bank that smells of Garlic at the right time – a




now,I often say that as a young birder we would blag our way into a gentleman’s car if they where going birding in Wales just to see one of these magnificent Bomber Command BoPs – now they are 10 a penny – everywhere,even over my urban house on a sunny day (although the first time was a toast dropper on a Sunday morning).


BTO told us of a 800% rise in numbers and I could well believe it,having travelled sometimes to Llandudno junction to tick one!


The only Cheshire ones we knew shortly after were at (Ritchie) Blackamore Wood on the way into Frodsham (a yellowhammer/corn bunting fest too!) up Ellis Lane.


These big laborious raptors are superb,not pretty,not nippy – the Avro Lancaster of the Bop world,heavy set,soaring,broad short head – with that unmistakeable v shaped wing profile with a well chiseled dark carpal joint a dead give away – but this one was just sat in a tree waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting rodent or piece of offal/corpse – the UK vulture and a fitting end to the treble!


PS if we didn’t get that we could have had a Merlin – not uncommon in Winter in these river valleys in Cheshire,fluked a Peregrine over Winnington rec or spied a big female Peregrine on the Runcorn Bridge span – all options, and summer brings wandering Kites (not far either!) and the chance of a Hobby carving through the landscape.


UK Birds of Prey – you’ve gotta love ‘em! And once again the predators raise your spirit and prepare you for the hard slog of everyday mundanity.


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