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Monday 12 December 2011


Recently I have been doing a lot of bird surveying over the Kent Marshes, the quality and numbers of birds on show have been quite staggering, especially at low tide. Along with Paul, we have both seen some really good birds, Wood Lark, Richard’s Pipit, Black Redstart and Hen Harrier to name just a few.

Grey Plover and Turnstone ( click on photos to enlarge)

Being a Harty Lane winter regular this section of Marsh compares pretty well with raptors, on Saturday’s survey we picked up 2 Common Buzzards, 5 Marsh Harriers, 2 pair Kestrel, female Sparrowhawk, female Merlin, Ringtail Hen Harrier, Short Eared Owl and 3 Peregrines.

Short Eared Owl
As most will know I am a raptor nut being involved with London’s Peregrines, they have always given me my kicks so it was interesting to watch and observe both the Peregrines hunting strategy along with the female Merlin.
We had both seen an adult pair of peregrines early in the survey so it was a bit of a surprise when an immature female showed up and began to hunt; I suspect that it was there juvenile from this year. They do to a certain extent retain an affinity with offspring even into the following year, I have seen this in London, and this was probably why it was not challenged.
The immature quickly singled out a Lapwing, unfortunately or fortunately however you want to look at it, it turned out to be super Lapwing. The immature made pass after pass at it, some were narrow misses, in others the Lapwing made it look easy. Every time the immature cast up after missing, the Lapwing then stayed pretty tight to the peregrine instead of trying to get away, at one time it was following the immature. In the end the immature gave up and settled on a field, the Lapwing leisurely carried on, no panic whatsoever. I wonder if it would have adopted these tactics if it had been an experienced adult peregrine instead of a relatively inexperienced immature?


Resting after the chase

In contrast we watched a female Merlin as we were leaving; her flight at first was usual but then became more powerful as she climbed strongly. I stayed on her as she got higher and higher, presently a small flock of Starlings came into view, and she split 3 from it and then continued to chase these even higher. By now they were dots even in the Binoculars, the Starlings were climbing for all they were worth but she was getting close and closer. In the end she suddenly flipped over and was gone, I suspect the Starlings had lost their nerve as she got closer and dived for the land. The outcome? As soon as they dived it favoured the Merlin, they are tenacious.

Female Merlin

Drake Wigeon

Grey Plover

Grey Plover again


The photo’s above were also taken at the site.

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