Sunday, 29 September 2013

Cutting a dash

Kneeling in the mud at Ferrybridge this afternoon, with just the Med Gulls and a couple of Sandwich Terns for company, everything suddenly went up. I looked around expecting a Peregrine but when a flock of squealing waders came past, the source of the panic became apparent - a Merlin in rapid pursuit.
Merlin, Ferrybridge
The view was typical: a fleeting one of a dashing rear end just out of range for my 400mm lens. So I was surprised when it turned and landed out in the open on a nearby rock. It wasn't long before it set off again on a hunting foray along the water's edge. All the waders scrambled once more except one solitary Dunlin with nerves of steel - or cataracts, one or the other.
I think a juvenile as these are said to be browner on the back and uppertail coverts without the greyish cast of adult females
I watched as, at first, the Dunlin looked up as if to say 'You can't be serious, can you?' before realising the Merlin was deadly serious. It took evasive action sufficiently late for its pursuer to end up in the water with wet trousers and empty talons. Like I said in this post last month, Ferrybridge is always worth a stop...
The imperfect hunting technique might also suggest a young bird
Swineham hadn't produced much to write home about in a couple of brief visits yesterday and this morning, so this afternoon, before the Ferrybridge pit-stop, I headed for Portland. A Common Rosefinch, trapped and ringed on Friday but not seen since, had resurfaced near the Observatory. I jammed in on it within a few minutes of arrival when it sat briefly atop a bramble, stuffed a few blackberries and disappeared again.
Common Rosefinch, Portland Bill. Aka Scarlet Rosefinch, though this one obviously wasn't.
This was the first I'd seen in Dorset - so not just the blackberries that were a little tart today. Another Rosefinch spent the winter in a Broadstone birder's garden, but after too many hours kerb-crawling the Hamworthy Hoopoe I thought I had caused more than my share of net curtain twitching so didn't ask to visit the stakeout at the time. Good not to have to wait too long before catching up with this one then.
See here for an 'in the hand' shot on the Portland Obs website (post for 28th September)

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