Kites, Ravens and other raptors of the Broadway, Worcestershire area, from December 2014 to April 2015
Mark & Christine Turner
After what seemed like an eternity my faith was restored in the birdlife of Broadway on bizarrely a stormy, rather changeable Sunday at 12.20 hrs, 7th December. It was just a casual glance out of the south facing living room window and there ambling across my view from the wooded escarpment to the east, a fork-tailed friend. At a height not much above the housing estate rooftops, the Kite, in a slow searching flight, headed west towards the village. Not too far behind came a second Kite with somewhere in between a Buzzard was hanging around. The second Kite doubled back towards the hill where up to three Buzzards were hanging into the wind with a back drop of increasingly threatening sky.
A cold, light to moderate north-westerly kept the clouds moving so showers were brief and we were blessed with bright spells when the sun peered through the gaps. The manner in which these large raptors loitered around today begs the question where have they been since 8th July?
Exactly one hour later as we headed out locally in the car, both Kites were patrolling together at the lower end of Sandscroft Avenue and Leamington Road and this sight, although not unusual nowadays, still feels surreal. My thoughts as I write this are that maybe in 2015 these birds will be mature enough to consider staying around Broadway to raise a family and the air will be filled with the plaintive whistling of another kind in the local ranks of raptors.
During the last work party of 2014 at Broadway Gravel Pit Nature Reserve, a highlight of the morning was a Red Kite soaring overhead looking spectacular in the sunlight. This reminded me of the very first one to show up locally also at the end of a work party here, on 12th April 1998.
Ravens continue to make their presence known and particularly so at the nature reserve such as on the 24th November 2014, also during a volunteers’ work party, a pair of the great Corvids blustered through the trees causing quite a stir. It was commented on as being quite an unsettling experience. These Buzzard-size beasts talk to one another constantly, they have a wide vocal range and we even detected strange frog-like croaks which at first completely baffled us from whence the sounds came.
At the end of a visit to the Gravel Pit late morning of 19th December, I paused on my way out to watch our celebrity pair of Corvids displaying low in reserve airspace with half-barrel rolls and croaking constantly. After many months observing them it is clear to me they travel down to this spot from the escarpment near Foxhill and Willersey Hill where I believe they hold breeding territory.
Away from Broadway it was the village of Badsey’s turn to host a Red Kite soaring in midday sun and in a way nice for us to see one in a different location. Fast forward into the New Year and the first significant news to reach me from the local grapevine was early February with a Barn Owl between Childswickham and Broadway and a Red Kite near Broadway Football Club. Staying with the Childswickham Road, I received a report of a Buzzard making off with a road-kill Kestrel around the same time by a different observer. However, the consequences of sourcing your supply of ready meals from the roadside ultimately proved to be the end-game for one Buzzard at this very spot as we discovered in March.
Across the way from Broadway Gravel Pit the allotments once again provided great entertainment for us on Sunday 15th February with a Red Kite and Ravens, obviously attracted to food provided by our friend the Market Gardener. We were able to observe aerial-feeding as the Kite reached with its bill to food clasped in the talons. This it did whilst circling very slowly over the foraging site, gliding on wings held perfectly flat with occasional bursts of flapping flight. There was a repeat performance two days later when it was apparent that four Ravens were in attendance, though only their lesser cousins concerned themselves with the Kite’s presence, the Ravens were too busy arguing with each other.
On the morning of Tuesday 24th February 2015 I decided to make a short visit to Broadway Gravel Pit for an hour, but this ultimately proved to be one of the most thrilling birding moments there in recent times. When I came to depart at 10.20 hrs I realised that two Red Kites were nearby one being particularly close over at the small holding just over the hedge from the roadside entrance. This bird persuaded me to stop and watch from the reserve car park. I was verbally willing the Kite to cross the Childswickham Road into our airspace and low and behold it did. As I stood next to the car the Kite passed directly over my head in a slow glide; EUREKA! A new reserve record was in the bag and what a thrill, but this must be the closest I’ve ever been to a wild Kite.
Now, for some time I’ve concerned myself with the apparent lack of Sparrowhawk (01) sightings in the Broadway area. However, after midday on 3rd April a vision of hope returned to the sky above. My wife and I watched in awe as two pairs came together over the edge of our housing estate and escarpment fields triggering a defiant display by the territory holding pair whilst the intruders circled to a great height. Both male and female engaged in dashing flight with deep undulations involving closed-winged stoops and steep climbs in typical Accipiter style. Bring on the breeding season!
01. Sparrowhawk by Mark Turner