Archive for raptor

SNOW BOARING#2 the night they came home…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on May 9, 2013 by abrandreth

Early morning, its not quite dark and its far from warm – but the wild is a hardy beast, so off we go, pre brekkers to get the traps back (regular readers will remember we baited and set camera traps to capture the beast…)

Jeff and Paul retrieve a trap with some footage of ‘something’ and a further trap that showed a white screen, but they thought the first one had fox at New Fancy – bugger!

‘Soudley Ponds’ beckoned – known as a good site for Boar signs on previous trips by the family Miles and they weren’t wrong! Slots and wallows and snufflidge marks all over the shop…

Myself and young Chris got fed up with paths and disappeared into the woodland on a mission, lots of Sweet Chestnuts and a distinct boar feel and we soon displaced some large mammals that moved on just in front, suddenly one broke cover – a Roe Buck and two females.

Halfway through manoeuvres I pointed out the unmistakable sound of another Goshawk proclaiming territory – superb!

After a quick chat with another local, walking a large hound and astounded that we hadn’t seen a boar – the family saw them all the time.

Despondent the B Team left for sunny Slimbridge and further details can be had here:

However after a quick rip off bagette encounter and a rude man in a shop at Beechurst, we cut our loses and went with my suggestion – Symonds Yat here we come for a crack at one of GBs most enigmatic raptors.

Once more the only disappointment was the freezing wind chill as two magnificent Peregrines tussled in the air then jostled for position on the ledge opposite the watchpoint:


And a brace of Fallow Deer in the woods for the grand finale

So to sum up was the Forest of Dean a disappointment?

Not when we checked the 1am Fox footage in the cold light of the Breakfast table:


Enjoy – we did!

NEXT UP: the French have a certain je ne sais quoi when it comes to birdin’…


Best laid plans…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2013 by abrandreth

Checked the forecast and Sunday seemed to be the best of the weekend, and with the prospect of using my new super dooper 500MM lens I was looking forward to a predator fest.

So Saturday shopping then – no biggie,needs must etc Mrs Weasel couldn’t make up her mind and so bound for Cheshire Oaks,bit of shopping and Pizza on the menu.

Just alighting on the top span of the Bridge – Peregrine,rather large and streaky,Juv Female? difficult to confirm at this speed but ‘spooking Pigeons for fun’ as LALOWs Dave McGrath would have it – good start on a non-birding day!

Circumnavigate Runcorn Hill (home of the Common Lizard) and onto the Weston Expressway and up onto the M56,linear progression towards Frodsam Marsh (which has another good blog written by Billy Morton) and what do we see but a very fast male Peregrine blasted through and went across to the viaduct (which was one of the first places I knew locally for breeding Little Ringed Plover)

Then just before the turn off for Chester and at least two Raven,long of wing and diamond shaped tail – coming across the marsh and direct comparison with the local crows and jackdaws – cool!

A great day considering – even the Pizzas where good!

Roll on Sunday – Sigma 170-500 on the D20, all batteries fully charged and ‘ERROR 99’ie: no show for the camera and lens,spend next 2 hours or so emailing and asking mates and being directed to the same message boards – nightmare.

So,after expecting great things – disaster! Took my 200mm and spent a few hours stalking Waxwings (again!) tried 4 separate known sites and finally connected on the Old Town Co-op car park,and got these shite record shots – oh hum.


Nil raptors,so tried the bridge – nil and went to to Spike where there were more Waxwings reported,dipped and took these shots of a psychedelic goose – courtesy of boat reflections in the cut.


Anyway other opportunities coming up – a trip to Leighton Moss – a boaring weekend in the Forest of Dean and a talk from the Weasel on Mustelids for the mammal society annual do – WATCH THIS SPACE…

PS getting sick of dead badgers on the way into work 4 in the last few weeks going back and too to work, I wonder whether this spell of flooding is causing displacement.

PPS a mate tells me that my new route crosses paths with a Barn Owl – wait till Sigma re-chip that lens and I’m there.


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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