RAPTOR WATCHING IN SE WORCESTERSHIRE
I am most fortunate to have been able to set down roots in my home town of Broadway, in the far south east corner of Worcestershire, on the edge of the North Cotswold escarpment. My passion for hawk-watching developed in recent years with the rise in numbers of birds of prey. They have re-established themselves within the more raptor-friendly countryside that surrounds us; our local area is both dramatic and ideally suited to the needs of these birds. I have selected a few extracts from my extensive diaries for Worcestershire Record to highlight some of the exciting birds to be found around our region.
A summary of hobby sightings in the North Cotswolds and Vale of Evesham
Observers; Mark E Turner and Christine E Turner.
1999 eight sightings
2000 ten sightings
2001 twelve sightings
2002 fifteen sightings
Earliest date 07 04 00 Ashton-under-Hill, Worcestershire.
Latest date 10 10 99 Bredon Hill, Ashton-under-Hill.
Three at Ashton-under-Hill, September 1999.
Two at Paxford, Gloucestershire, 02 05 01, (courtship chase).
Two at Broadway, Worcestershire, 24 08 01, (calling in flight).
First juvenile identified
Childswickham, Worcestershire, 19 09 02.
(These notes taken from Hawk Watch U.K Cotswolds to Coast (unpublished), compiled by Mark E Turner).
|Hobby, drawn by Mark Turner.||Raven, drawn by Mark Turner||Goshawk Accipter gentilis drawn by Mark Turner. 14th April 2002, Kite's Nest farm, Broadway, Worcestershire. Adult male. A partially silhouetted view of the bird with damaged left wing primaries.drawn by Mark Turner|
On 18th October 2002, Cotstone Quarry Landfill site reliably produced a Raven at midday.
21st October brought a window of mild to warm weather in between regular spells of rain. It also brought a juvenile Buzzard to Broadway Gravel Pit Nature Reserve, flying low through the marsh area and being the seventh record for the species at the site.
Mid-afternoon of 25th October during a sunny period, I came upon a male Kestrel hovering over the road at Hidcote Boyce, northeast of Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire. As I slowed my vehicle down I realised another Kestrel was sat in the road. The hovering bird did a vertical stoop with wings closed and swooping close by the Kestrel on the tarmac. The bird under attack appeared to be a juvenile, probably encroaching on the other one's territory. Two other Kestrels were in flight together over fields adjacent to the Sedgeberrow bypass at 16:30 hrs, an area well established as a Vale of Evesham hotspot for the species.
The morning of 7th November brought very welcome warm and sunny weather in contrast to recent days. Although it was a normal workday, I was able to see Common Buzzards gathering over woodland/farmland between Moreton-in-Marsh and Evenlode, Gloucestershire. A light, fresh wind kept the birds suspended at different heights whilst I made sure of my maximum count. As the brief grouping of five began to break up, one bird stooped on a lower one as a finale to the event.
For the most part November was wet, therefore few opportunities to observe soaring birds. Once again Kestrel proved to be the most commonly seen raptor around the region, particularly birds hunting next to busy roads. Most Buzzard sightings were of birds at rest or hunting from a perch. Sparrowhawks seemed to have disappeared from the scene, except for a female appearing low over the A44 at Wickhamford on 22nd, in a slow patrolling flap and glide flight. Wickhamford also hosted a pair of Buzzards, resident in the Longdon Hill area.
November however, was notable for a quite extraordinary story that came to light when a Gamekeeper from Stanway Hill came to see me in my workplace in Broadway. A pleasant and knowledgeable man, he told me of an event ten years previously. He was releasing Partridges from a holding pen when a bird of prey descended and snatched one of his birds, then flew off over his head. Incredibly it was a ring-tail Harrier. Even more incredibly, during October 2002, another ring-tail Harrier turned up on his farm. Realising the significance of this rare coincidence and having read my first book, he felt compelled to discuss it with me. I am waiting for the phone to ring.
The first week of December 2002 finally managed to bring us frosty mornings and sunny days together with cold winds to give it that wintry feel. Buzzards tentatively began to re-emerge onto the scene around the region. One of a resident pair coming away from Broadway Hill over the village bypass did a complete barrel roll to ward off a nuisance Crow with outstretched legs and grappling talons. Next day, the 5th, a Buzzard soared in blue sky over Hall Farm, Bricklehampton and yet another visit by one to Broadway Gravel Pit circled with wings held in a deep 'V' over the reserve centre and marsh.
A route which I am tempted to name 'Raptor Road', once again yielded a good count on 12th December, the gloomiest of days. Less than favourable conditions included mist, snow and rain and a cold easterly wind. Between 14:00 and 14:15 hrs the count was as follows;
Hinton Road, Childswickham, three Kestrels.
Hinton Cross, one Kestrel, one Buzzard.
Hinton to Elmley Road, one Kestrel, one Buzzard.
Elmley Castle, two Buzzards.
During a bitter cold and rainy morning of 15th December, the 1ˇ6 hectare site of Broadway Gravel Pit hosted a male Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk, keeping resident passerines on their toes. The Kestrel at first watched over the marsh from a willow before a bout of hovering over the reed mace. The Sparrowhawk passed through low, over the marsh and cut across the far end causing alarm calls to be raised. The previous day's Green Sandpiper had not been found, the hawk almost certainly would have put it up, had the wader still been present. A roving Tit flock may have been the attraction today.
Following slow progress in heavy traffic on the evening of 19th December between Evesham and Bidford, Christine was homebound passing through the village of Honeybourne. At this point in the journey and a most fortunate bit of timing, a Barn Owl took flight from the roadside, rising ghost-like in vehicle headlights.
A good time to see numbers of Kestrels hunting is first light. 08:00 hrs on Christmas Eve, and the low-light conditions could not conceal the activities of Vale of Evesham raptors during a journey from Broadway to Dunnington. Wickhamford held a flying pair and a singleton in the Longdon Hill area. Single Kestrels were seen perching in an orchard at Twyford and high on top of a Pine tree at Norton Grange. Hovering birds were at Dunnington Cross and Evesham Road, Broadway.
December 2002 continued to deteriorate with persistent showers and morning fog, the rain persisted into the New Year bringing widespread flooding across the region. By Sunday 5th January 2003 the morning temperature dropped to -5ēC bringing with it bright sunshine and clear blue sky. Taking advantage of the mid-morning sun, as we discovered, was an adult female Sparrowhawk at Broadway Gravel Pit Nature Reserve. She sat in willow scrub facing south at the edge of the pit, no doubt enjoying a little warmth from the low sun.
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