Thursday, 30 July 2015

Red-footed Falcon(s)

In May this year we saw Red-footed Falcons in both the Algarve and the Baixo Alentejo, birds that were part of an unprecedented influx of this species into Portugal.  We reported here on the first ones that we saw near Faro after a tip-off from Thijs Valkenburg.

It was difficult when the birds were so mobile to know for sure how many of them there might have been in total.  One estimate put the number at more than 100.  Previously there had been only a handful of accepted records in Portugal so this was quite an event.

Castro Verde, Portugal; May 2015

Red-footed Falcons winter in southern Africa and migrate north to breed in eastern Europe, west and central Asia.  Clearly something went seriously wrong this year during their northward journey as exceptional numbers were also seen in France, Switzerland, Spain and several other countries; some birds even reached the Canary Islands.

 In the UK it’s not unusual for a few overshooting birds to be seen in the spring, to the point that the species is no longer officially a rarity.  With so many birds occurring this year in central Europe an influx into the UK was perhaps to have been expected but in the event it didn’t happen.  However, there have been a few birds including one, a first-summer male, that was first reported on 9th July at Chatterley Whitfield in Staffordshire.

Chatterley Whitfield; July 2015

And Chatterley Whitfield is where we went this morning!  It’s only 25 miles away, the sun made a rare appearance and there was the promise of another local ‘rarity’, a Black Restart.  It was more than we could resist!

With the falcon having been present in more or less the same spot for three weeks we were surprised when we arrived to find so many people there watching and photographing it.  It seemed amazingly unconcerned by the presence of these people and completely undisturbed by cars passing within just a few feet as it perched on roadside posts and power cables.

Chatterley Whitfield; July 2015

Apparently during the early part of its stay some birders provided locusts for it to eat resulting not just in a lot of controversy and debate about whether this was acceptable/advisable but also in an array of notices advising against such practices.  If the motive was to entice the bird nearer for the purposes of photography, then based on today’s performance it was totally unnecessary.

 Police protection for the Red-footed Falcon!

This is only the fourth record of Red-footed Falcon in Staffordshire and the eighth in the West Midland Bird Club recording area.

The Black Redstart appeared to be a juvenile, perhaps one that has been bred locally.  

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