Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Day Three - 21st April 2010 - a visit from Auntie

Our third day up in the heavens above Babylon, and our longest stint yet.... the BBC's Natural World team were with us throughout, and requested an earlier start to film various links and all that jazz (if you believe we ascended the ladders just the once today when you see the film, you may want to think again).

Conditions were again ok without being ideal; in common with Day 2 last week, the skies were sunny and mainly clear with a little wispy cumulus cloud, but the frequently chilly northerly kept the bermuda shorts safely packed away. Several of us managed a straight eight hours today (with reinforcements arriving at midday), before stumbling back down after 3 p.m.

With our movements shadowed by the crew, the morning session was notable for unexpected fly-bys - an Oystercatcher approached from the south-west at tower height before flying roughly along the river at 0952, and a Rook (a very scarce inner London species) flew north below us at 0920.

and Kestrel followed in the next hour, the first of three Swallows for the day flew by at 1120, also our first trans-Saharan migrant from the Tower.

The less said about a probable Hobby and an unidentified large raptor (both at great distance and evaporating into the heat haze) the better, and at least being on first name terms with several local Peregrines kept us entertained before our first Common Buzzard of the day - incredibly high and heading north directly above us, we're fairly sure it would have been impossible to see from the ground.

The undisputed dramatic highlight of the day followed at 1342 (and lasted a good ten minutes in all), when two Common Buzzards and a local pair of Peregrines became intimately acquainted in the skies above the West End, and not much higher than our position. A representative of each species became involved in a particularly fiery altercation that had us reigning in the expletives only on account of being mic'ed up. Watching such an acrobatic dog-fight over the streets of London almost inspired a rendition of the Dad's Army theme tune, but with auntie present, perhaps not.

The final hour produced our first Common Swift of the project (and the first this year for most observers), always a beautiful sight, and a House Martin gunning north with a Swallow. A hard-working but pleasingly varied day with a few surprises and a memorable air-show.

Mark Pearson

(photos - Common Swift, Kestrel, Common Buzzards and Peregrines today - c Mark Pearson)

P.S Peter Alfrey, T42 regular and Beddington birder, has been blogging about our exploits - have a look at his pages here

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