How often do you get to write this on a bird survey map?!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday, 28 April 2011 16:16

I've been doing one of the farmland bird surveys in Hampshire west of Petersfield this morning and I struck gold, black gold. Rare vagrant birds are not the focus of this work, far from it but they do get my blood pumping. I see Red Kites on perhaps every other visit to this farm but they are interesting so I note them down on the maps. So at 10:15 this Red Kite approaches the farm from the south west.
Coming straight out of the sun from the east enters another kite so I mark that one down too.
Wait a flippin' minute! That's no Red Kite, it's got hardly any fork in the tail and it's small and dark, it's a Black Kite! Yes, I now know BK is actually the BTO code for Black Grouse not Black Kite (which is KB) but I didn't know that in the heat of the moment. Anyway, a rumble was on the cards and for the first (and probably the only time) I wrote this down:
They were good but brief views, I got some shots but they're not great. I have only ever seen one Black Kite ever and that was the Black-eared Kite in Lincolnshire several years ago. I have no doubt on the ID though, I spend enough time watching kites these days, I would say I pretty much see reds weekly now. It was a really great opportunity seeing the two species side by side, the first thing that struck me was how much smaller the Black Kite was. It also didn't look so different from above with the sun shining on it but the white bases to the primaries were really only visible when the wings were perpendicular to my line of site, quite different to the Red Kite, like it had flown through a cloud of soot. The differences were much more obvious when comparing their undersides.

Here's the red
Here's the black
And here is the red and the black! (Shame the black is doing some sort of break-dancing at this point but you get the idea).
That's my first self found rarity since Red-rumped Swallow in 2008 and it was amazing how much it got me pumped. I finished the survey in record time, all 18 km and then walked another 5 km at Heyshott Down. That might be the furthest I have ever walked in one day...

5 Response to "How often do you get to write this on a bird survey map?!"

Tom Forward Says:

Nice one!
Went to Dungeness on Tues in the hope of Vagrant Emperor which failed to show in the high winds and cooler temperatures or perhaps the 3 Hobbies that were around the reserve had something to do with it. Anyway I ended up with Black Kite and both male and female Marsh Harriers in the same view which was great for comparison. A totally unexpected first for me and great compensation for the dragonfly dip. Also booming Bittern was nice.

Gibster Says:

HAHA!!! The birds are wooing you back! Great find, mate. Jealous? Nah...

Graeme Lyons Says:

Thanks guys!
Tom, I saw that KB on BirdGuides, did you find it and ID it? Did you get good views? It was funny because I always expect rare raptors to be flying very high but this bird was pretty low.
Graeme

Tom Forward Says:

I didn't post sighting on BG but bumped into someone later on reserve who said they'd seen from observatory after a dull sea watch. Initially it threw me as it too was low and over reed beds and had just been watching the harriers. Gizz felt somehow kite-like and even though I've seen plenty of Black Kites in India I wasn't expecting it here so took a few seconds before penny dropped. Things that stood out though were shallow tail forking and also lots of tail twisting in flight and an overall dark, dull/drab colouration.
Tom

Graeme Lyons Says:

Nice one Tom! I'm hoping something good will turn up today that's twitchable, looking for distractions today but can't really get away without a reason!

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