24 July 215
I have just returned from a birding trip to the UK and have begun the task of downloading and editing almost 1,500 pictures. When that is all done I will begin to write my trip report, but in the meantime this species deserves its own coverage.
A Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus is a rare but nonetheless fairly regular visitor to the UK, often after the breeding season in north-eastern Europe is complete. This individual was a first summer male, entirely typical of the individuals finding their way to Britain as they undertake post-breeding dispersal.
This bird was unbelievably cooperative and as soon as we arrived at Chatterley-Whitfield Colliery where it had been reported, we spotted it in a tree, aided by the directions given by several birders already present.
It was feeding frequently in a horse paddock which no doubt provided a rich source of insects as they were stirred up by the horses' hooves and grass-chewing activity.
The bird found the piles of horse manure convenient perches and the manure probably also attracted the insects upon which this species feeds.
It often returned to the cover of a tree after a bout of feeding, but from time to time perched on a wire, quite close to the road, providing excellent opportunities to study the bird and take photographs.
I am indebted to my good friend Richard Pegler (about whom more later in my trip report) for taking us there and it was a quite marvelous way to start a birding trip. Furthermore, it was a lifer for both Miriam and me.
To top off this quite remarkable sighting, a mere hundred metres or so farther up the road there was a juvenile Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros. This bird was as cooperative as the falcon, perching in the open where we could see it well, and virtually posed for photographs.
Although not nearly so rare as the Red-footed Falcon, the redstart was a significant sighting. There are fewer than a hundred breeding pairs in the UK, but they are supplemented by overwintering birds migrating to Britain, probably in the order of three to four hundred individuals.
It was interesting for us to see the following sign posted by the local police, obviously concerned for the welfare of both the bird and the residents who were subjected to an influx of birders with all their vehicles parked along the road. A police car actually cruised through while we were there with nothing but friendly waves from the constables inside.
This duo enabled us to spend a very pleasant late morning birding in the company of British birders who all seemed genuinely pleased that, having travelled all the way from Canada, we were treated to this very agreeable event.