Friday 19 June 2020

Birding Blast from the Past 1, 2 and 3 - Magnificent Frigatebird, Pallid Harriers and Ospreys

So with birding opportunities limited during Lockdown, I've been having a wander down birding memory lane looking at some blasts from the past. First up, a magnificent seabird that came out of nowhere (actually a fog bank), the ultimate Harrier followed by a Royal fish-eating raptor.

Please enjoy.

Magnificent Frigatebird

During the 2018 World Series of Birding we were heading down the Garden State Parkway towards Brig. when a conversation about Star Trek took place, one of my teammates being a big fan. Somehow in the conversation I mentioned that if we saw a Klingon Starship 'decloak' over the Garden State Parkway then I'm out of here, no matter how good we were doing in the bird race!

Fast forward several days and after checking out of (the wonderful) Stockton Inns, returned a few moments later to Cape May Point to discover all hell had broken loose. It had already been a morning of where to look next with Golden-winged, Wilson's and Canada Warblers amongst many other species grabbing birders attentions during a fall of Spring migrants at CMBO Northwood. This time a Magnificent Frigatebird was patrolling the shore just off the Point, a cracking find a few moments earlier by R Crossley. Watching this wannabe Pterodactyl disappear into and then return out of a rolling fog bank was the closest I'm going to get to seeing a 'decloaking' Klingon Starship!

Time to blow my own trumpet, we (Team 1000birds) won the first prize, the Urner-Stone Cup, a brilliant independent write up of the day can be seen at the National Audubon's Society website.

Pallid Harriers

A mythical species that has now gratefully lost that tag in recent years here in GB. It's becoming a most sought after sight on passage, and with several individuals wintering this as allowed for good studies of this striking raptor. Following the sub-adult male gracing Elmley on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent in August 2002 I've been lucky to connect with several in Norfolk, Yorkshire and Lancashire, with the male holding territory in the Forest of Bowland in April 2017 the ultimate sighting to date. Never thought I'd see a skydancing "purring" male this side of the Channel or indeed anywhere.

A beautiful species, intermediate in structure between Montagu's and Hen Harriers. Watching adult males fly in off the Mediterranean in Cyprus is a sight to behold in late March/early April, plus there's a good opportunity to test identification skills of flyby Spring 'ringtails'. One such example was put to the test not on the island of Cyprus but when birding in Germany instead. A 1st summer female flew from the Rhine Rift Valley up over the northwest corner of the Black Forest on 11 April 2014, a bit unexpected especially on changing from scope to camera I moved inadvertently from a Red Kite to the Harrier!

Winterton, Norfolk (Autumn 2006)

Skilift Sieibelseckle, Black Forest, Germany (April 2014)

Flitcham, Norfolk (December 2015)

Welwick, East Yorkshire (December 2016)

Forest of Bowland (April 2017)

Paphos Headland, Cyprus (March 2018)

Cockerham, Lancashire (September 2018)

Paphos Headland, Cyprus (March 2019)


Driving down towards the green bridge at Broomhead Reservoir, South Yorkshire in the morning of 05 April 2010, a big bird of prey was over the woodland above the bridge. I pulled over, just had a feel that it wasn't a Buzzard. Through the windscreen I could see it was dark brown above and it turned to reveal shocking white underparts, my first moorland Osprey. I drove to the bridge and watched it drift towards Ewden Heights from where it was seen about 15 minutes later being escorted north by a pair of Ravens. It then spent time sat out of sight at Midhope Reservoir before leaving back towards the Ewden Valley. My next moorland Spring sighting was late afternoon on 05 April 2012, when one individual flew east over Midhope Reservoir, from Pike Lowe via Langsett Reservoir. It was constantly looking down at the snow covered moorland.

One of my favourite birds of prey, been lucky to connect with several more on this moorland edge and nearby over the last few years, in both Spring and Autumn. The Spring sightings have so far come in 2 clusters, 03 to 09 April and around the Spring Bank Holiday weekend (27 and 28 May).

Howden Reservoir, Derbyshire (April 2015)

Some of the above feature in these birding videos:

Magnificent Frigatebird - simply speechless! (May 2018)

Pallid Harrier - oh what a Circus, oh what a Show! (April 2017)

Ospreys - no Spring footage but 2 autumn birds on consecutive days (August 2017)