Wednesday, 18 August 2021

Balscote Quarry & Pitsford Water :: 14/15 August 2021

I didn't rush to get out of bed having driven home from Scotland for 9½hrs with only a ½hr snack and toilet break - the joys of traffic and closure of the M6. As it approached late morning, I decided to get some fresh air and visit Balscote Quarry to see if I could connect with the semi-regular hobby visiting the site. As I arrived a drizzle started - not what had been forecast. Fortunately, the bench was dry and so I popped on a waterproof jacket and settled in. There was little in the bowl and more activity around and over.

A red kite cruised through, and three buzzards rose from the trees by the main Stratford Road. Watching the buzzards, a smaller raptor joined them and I was convinced that it was the arrival of the hobby. Lowering my bins I grabbed my camera and went to take a photo to confirm the ID at this distance only for the bird to disappear beyond the trees. Damn. A few minutes later a kestrel appeared in roughly the same area and so I decided it must have been wishful thinking.

Another raptor crossed the bowl again at the main road end, but this time was clearly a male sparrowhawk - it didn't stop and cleared the hedge and was gone. Up to 18 linnet could be seen at a time, with a pair of whitethroat still being very active around the site they have been seen taking in food. A male kestrel showed around the site but then another raptor came in low across the bowl - I saw it late and it disappeared behind the scrub and landed on the rocks on the far side. I jumped up and crashed off a volley of photos only to find it was the female kestrel - again no cigar.


Five buzzard took to the wing and added to the raptor total but not the species I'd hoped for.

The next morning I again had a bit of a lie in before making for Pitsford Water. The car park was filling up and I started with a crossing of the causeway finding lots of Canada geese, a few greylag and a strung-out flock of lapwing. There wasn't anything of note through the bins as so I made for the bird hides on the left shore. I took note of the usual common species as I went and the handfuls of pochard mostly asleep on the water. As I passed the feeder area I could hear sparrows but couldn't get a look at them so pushed on - I'd try again on the return. I soon arrived at the Bird Club hide and scanned the waters edges - a lot of juvenile moorhen and a single little egret - as I scanned back a great white egret left the trees behind and dropped onto a stick, followed by another. A third joined briefly but then disappeared back out of view.

Great white egret
Great white egret
Great white egret

I was taking a few photos which turned out to be more complicated due to the environment around the bird - the brilliant white just lit up against the dark background - a fiddle with the camera settings resulted in some better captures - another bird to add to the year list. I was scanning the area and thinking how many perching points there were when a kingfisher dropped onto one of the sticks to the left and surprisingly this is my first of the year. I took a record shot but it was not worthy of even including here. I continued on to see if I could find another angle but in vain. Neither could I pick out the RC pochard (in eclipse) that has been reported in this vicinity.

On the return to the car park I stopped again at the feeder area and this time could see some of the sparrows flitting around - one gave a long enough view to take a photo and I could confirm that they were tree sparrows - another first for the year - I'm so glad to see this group seem to be doing well where so many others have vanished. A great visit and some fresh air to try and clear the headache I'd been experiencing for the last couple of days since the epic drive.

Tree sparrow

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