Friday 19 June 2020

Lockdown Day 88 - Red-Footed Falcon!!

I am not one of those birders that dashes across the country in the hope of seeing some kind of rare bird, but very very occasionally one is close enough for me to cycle to it on a day when I have the time to go and look. Three years ago on a cycle ride I saw a Great Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor) near Acaster Malbis former airfield and a couple of years before that a Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans) on Rufforth airfield.

Today, having read online about a Red-Footed Falcon (Falco vespertinus) near Biggin (near Bishop Wood), I decided my cycle ride would be out that way in the hope I could see this bird, a rare visitor from Eastern Europe and the western part of Asia.

Red-Footed Falcons migrate from Africa to their breeding grounds and it is only when they are driven off course in their migration that they end up in the UK. This year several have arrived in different parts of the country, perhaps because we have had quite a lot of easterly and south-easterly winds recently. These birds have a varied diet, small mammals, small reptiles and amphibians and also eat insects, beetles and worms.

Red-Footed Falcons are a similar size to a Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) and hunt in a similar fashion.

As is usual when a rare bird is sighted, there are quite a few people that go to see it and I was a little worried that there would be a crowd, however the viewing point was on a farm track and everyone was able to social distance easily. The falcon was mostly on some telegraph wires or in a tree next to some farm buildings quite some distance away, just visible to the naked eye if you knew where to look but a good view in binoculars or telescope. According to other birders it had been terrorising the local blackbirds into giving up worms and grubs!

As it was a long way away, my photos aren't the best pictures one could take of this bird, but you can see that it has very distinctive plumage compared to similar resident species. This is the female, the male birds are mostly grey plumage.

On the way home I saw some other, much less rare birds - although still pretty birds to see - and I'll do a post about them tomorrow.

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