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Tuesday, 18 November 2008


Sub-adult Rough-legged Buzzard, Reed, Hertfordshire, 17 November 2008 (Mike Lawrence)
Note the tail pattern - full adults tend to have multiple tail-bands and females have strongly barred underwings

I spent the afternoon birding the Reed area today, recording a total number of 7 raptor species.

The ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD was showing very well. From 1225-1248 hours, it was 'sat' in the air, often hovering, above the large field to the right (east) of the Hatchpen track. It then dropped down over the ridge and remained out of view for the next hour and twenty minutes. It reappeared from there at 1420 hours and gave the gathered crowd of some 15 observers an excellent view as it flew across the road and went back towards its favoured feeding area by the A10. Some superb flight photographs were obtained.

The female or immature HEN HARRIER also put in a very good performance, appearing over the same field on the right at 1351 hours and then quartering the farmland north to Hatchpen Farm for the next half hour. It is quite rusty on the underparts suggesting that it is probably a juvenile.

A very pale male PEREGRINE also showed well, stooping low over the fields and successfully catching a domestic pigeon, which it took to a neighbouring field and plucked.

Two RED KITES were on view throughout my visit, one of which was favouring the A10 side of Hatchpen and the other ranging east as far as Newsalls Park and Barkway, whilst COMMON BUZZARDS in the area numbered ten. Interesting, one of the juvenile Common Buzzards is a 'Rough-leg lookalike' and has a pale head, a white area on the uppertail and easily confused with the real mccoy.

Common Kestrel and Eurasian Sparrowhawk completed the line-up.

The grain spillage at the Hatchpen Farm barns was attracting huge numbers of columbidae. I click-counted 338 Eurasian Collared Doves sat on the green roofs at one time - the largest number I have ever recorded in Hertfordshire - and nearby, in crops north of Barkway village, 800+ Woodpigeons were present in one feeding flock.

Over 150 Red-legged Partridges were ranging the rolling hills and fields, along with 25+ Brown Hares, whilst small passerines included 25 Yellowhammers, 15 Linnets and a handful of Chaffinches.

Once again, the farmer was very considerate and allowed us all access along his entrance road. I chatted with him and was very impressed by his knowledge of the local wildlife and very pleased to hear of his full respect for the countryside. He has opted into one of the government farming schemes which supports biodiversity and is extremely effective in providing shelter and food for birds. This has been achieved in tandem with providing game shooting for a syndicate. The results are very impressive.


The small hamlet of Reed lies two miles south of Baldock just east of the A10. Turn right (east) towards Barkway and park sensibly and courteously in the first layby after 100 yards or on the verge. DO NOT BLOCK THE ENTRANCE TO HATCHPEN NOR DRIVE DOWN THIS PRIVATE ROAD. It is used by large farm vehicles and lorries throughout the day. Birders are welcome to walk down the lane for 400 yards, where the sloping farmland and buzzard feeding areas can be easily vantaged. DO NOT PROCEED TOWARDS THE FARM ITSELF NOR TRAMPLE ANY CROPS. DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, DRIVE ON TO THE GRASS.