It was just over a month ago now, but I got a phone call from my dad early on a Tuesday morning as I headed to work that a Great Bustard had been seen quite a few times on a nearby estate. I had to get him to repeat it a GREAT BUSTARD!!!!!
The bird apparently had been present for a couple of weeks and favouring a Stone Curlew plot in the middle of one of the ploughed fields. Being a Tuesday and with a full week of work, the weekend couldn't come soon enough. So armed with instructions and having promised the Gamekeeper and the Estates owners not to reveal its location to anyone I headed off in search of this giant bird.
Walking alongside some thick hedge rows plenty of Yellowhammer & Corn Bunting chirped away in front of me along with a few small groups of Goldfinch flushing up from the seed heads next to the hedge. I managed to get into a sheltered hidden position to view the area the Bustard had been said to have favoured. Not a thing, I was sure with the size of the bird I would be able to see it, but no, no sign anywhere!
A small covey of Red-legged Partridge flew into the belt to which I sat, and several Pheasants flew out as a female Sparrowhawk emerged from the fir trees but still no Bustard. So I sat and waited for a good hour or more, enjoying distant views of 5 Roe Deer mooching about on the ploughing. Then something caught my eye, a good 600-700 metres away a large bird rising high above the hedgerow.
My first thoughts were Short-eared Owl a bird that had roosted on this ground in previous winters, but no a look through the binoculars confirmed Great Bustard. It circled a couple of times in the distance dropping in height with every turn, eventually coming in to land on a game cover crop 3 fields over quite near the road.
Barely able to contain my excitement I legged it as quickly back to the car as I could not taking my eye of the spot I last saw it. 15 minutes later and I was searching the cover crop. Fruitlessly, whether the bird had wandered on down, or simply glided low over top of the road and to the fields the other side.
Gutted, I dejectedly wandered through a gap in the hedge and instantly come across 2 Roe Deer sat on the track 100 or so yards further down. Sticking tight to the hedge and getting as low as I could tripod and all I stalked as close as I could get to the young Doe & Buck, and was really pleased to get a lot of shots, some of which I think are my best yet of Roe.
So I left happy with my Roe Deer shots but not that I had some incredibly distant unrecognisable Bustard flight shots. But never fear, it was only Saturday and having guaranteed the bird was still in residence I headed back the next day, but I shall save that all for the next blog post.
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