Thursday, 21 March 2013

Great Bustard - 17th Feb

So if you read my previous post from Saturday the 16th Feb you would know that I was hot on the heels of a wintering Great Bustard on a nearby estate. And that although I saw the bird the previous day it was miles away and I couldn't really photograph conclusive proof. So with some nicer weather on Sunday and a call from the local Keeper to say he had seen the bird heading back to its favoured spot, I headed off again just after lunch determined to get a photograph.

I found my way into position a lot stealthier than the day before, and instantly I could pick out the bird huddled down on the far side of the Stone Curlew Plot. Bingo some rather distant grainy pics at 500 yards or so, but definitely a Great Bustard. A couple of times over the next hour or so the Bustard stood up went for a short wander grazing a couple of times before heading back to the one large tuft of grass on the open ground.

It was clear to see no wing tags, Having seen the bird earlier in the week the estate called the Great Bustard group out from Salisbury Plain to see if they could shed some light on its being here. The guy came out pretty quickly and having located the bird with the landowner seemed to think it was one of their released birds and around 2 years old, having lost both wing tags. Although this seemed most definitely the most plausible explanation as Salisbury Plain birds have showed up in Somerset from time to time, North Hampshire being the same kind of distance away. It seemed strange to me that a bird this big that is tagged with some pretty large wing tags would just so happen to loose both. (Maybe I just hoped it was a wild one and I had the discovery of a lifetime)

The one thing that was clear to me however was, I wasn't going to get any closer to the bird. It appeared so skittish, every time it did venture out from behind its tuft, a slight noise, movement from the nearby Roe Deer and even on one occasion a Woodpigeon sent it strutting back to its tuft. Whilst savouring the Bustard a falcon shaped bird darted quickly over my head and landed out on the ploughing, having my lens focused on the Bustard it took me quite a while to find the bird in flight and missed out on a good angle. It landed on a furrow and sat and sat and sat. It was still perched there by the time I left, and I concluded that it was juvenile Peregrine, slightly browner in colour than any I had seen before. Another awesome patch tick to go with the weekends Bustard.

Eventually the Roe Deer rose up from the furrows they had been led down in, making their way towards the fresh foliage atop the curlew plot. The Bustard didn't appear to be too tolerant and was soon up on its giant drumsticks and wandering across the top of the field to a nearby plantation. This allowed me my only decent-ish ID shot I was happy with as the bird kept to the skyline. The below pic is quite a heavy crop but beggars cant be choosers right?
Satisfied I headed back to my car parked out on the road, leaving the Bustard heading for new cover, and the Peregrine perched motionless on the furrow. I got some great views of fleeing Skylark, Reed Bunting and Linnet in the warm afternoon sun as I head back down a game cover crop topping off a cracking afternoon.

You just never know what might turn up on your doorstep! Wild, released or totally unexpected.

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