Apr 3, 2011

An hour at Cottasgarth

The close of the day today saw me at Cottasgarth for a spot of raptor watching. This was the first visit to the dale of the year. The walk up was very pleasing with flocks of Meadow pipits lurking in the grass and heather. Each time you put one up as you walk along several more would appear to chase it off. There were geese in pairs and bubbling Curlews. It really felt the hill was coming back to life. The hide was looking like us all a little rough around the edges as we are getting on but on opening the door it was like being in the presence of an old friend that you haven’t seen for a while, the comfort of familiarity is tinged with the excitement of exploring new doings. I settle in the right side, open the windows and after a scan have a look at the log. Not updated for a while. Movement on the hill took my eye as a male Harrier swooped about the willows down the valley. Looking at it I can see its carrying and wonder what it is. No sooner had I sussed this out and a female had exactly the same idea. She swung about him and it looked like there would be a food pass as they went through the motions. It didn’t happen tho and the pair of them headed up the hill. They still interacted and in one moment there appeared a female Peregrine in the mix, a brief kafuffle saw the Peregrine head up the hill. The Harriers also split with the male landing and immediately start to devour the vole it had, The female cruised the hill side continually turning down wind and gaining altitude before quartering a bit more eventually to disappear over the top of the hill. While I was watching this the male bird had got up and away and was nowhere to be seen. After a couple of minutes the Meadow pipits threat level had dropped and once more they started to emerge and make their presence felt to one another. It wasn’t to last long though because the next two birds were coming up the hill. As I look I think it is a pair of females together.. One is 10 -20 ft above the other looking to flush and pounce, slowly moving they swap positions. Looking at the wings of the topmost one I look to the tail and back to the wing, this is a pair of buzzards!! Buzzards are a bird that have been doing well and expanding their range so it is good to see a pair together

They worked their way up the hill and put on a bit of a show along the ridge. Finally they landed on the horizon and picked at something before heading off over the brow of the hill. The male Harrier appeared heading of towards the flatlands and flew out of view and specks on the horizon now take my attention. Binoculars reveal yet another pair of raptors! This time it’s a pair of Kestrels and as I watch one dives and is followed by the other a short distance away. Both take to the air again. They are not very high above the ground and once again they make twisting dives to the heather. In the scope its great to watch. I don’t know what they were eating but I would bet on caterpillars rather than rodents because they were still at it when I left. I was distracted from all this by a raven cresting the ridge and heading down the hill. Its presence was enough to put up a female Harrier from somewhere behind the big tree. She headed up the hill side in a lack lustre sort of way and landed just above the highest patch of scrub in front of the hide, here she stayed and looked like she was chillin before the roost. It was about seven the hill side was well in shadow now and I had been there for just over an hour so time to head off….happy enough with that for an hours birding

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