Taking my Breath Away

Taking my Breath Away - Goldfinch on a teasle
Taking my Breath Away

As a wildlife watcher there are spectacles I have seen that have taken my breath away, from thousands of Pink-footed geese taking to flight in the setting sun, to clouds of Starling swirling, en masse, as they paint amazing patterns in the evening sky; Watching a Cappercallie lek in the pine forests of highland Scotland, all the way to the champagne pop at the end, to witnessing Zino’s Petrel coming in to roost atop a high peak of Madeira, their eerie call piercing the night sky. But it is not often it happens on your local patch.

Taking my Breath Away

But before I get to that….

The day started as one of those grey overcast days, where the light never really feels like morning has fully arrived, a constant dawn/dusk spread over the land.Wandering through the old lock, Bullfinch seemed to be everywhere, the light peeping of their calls seemed to stretch the length of the canal. As I walked through, a tiny Goldcrest flew across the path and sat in the open for longer than I usually see them, grabbing my camera I started to take a few photos but alas the dull light of the day made that task very tricky especially with a fast moving bird in the dark bushes.

Goldcrest
Goldcrest

As I neared the end of the path to the river, the soft ‘wheeting’ call of a Chiffchaff could be heard, an unusual, but not unheard of, winter visitor, it is nice to get one before spring, but there is nothing quite like that first chiffchaff call in spring.

Floodplain Forest

My walk continued along the River Ouse, and as I passed the camp site lakes, 8 or 9 Goosander could be seen chasing each other, ducking and diving in the deep water and making it very tough to count. But little else stirred the emotions, and I was soon entering the nature reserve.

Settling down in the first hide, there was a distinct lack of birds in front of me, a few Gadwall and the odd piping Teal, a Little Egret creeping along the banks, but not much else. A brief flash of excitement as a Peregrine dashed through, passing right over and disappearing off into the distance but not much else, so I was soon walking on.

Magpie
Magpie

Strolling along the nature reserves path, Wigeon and Gadwall flew around the reserve, some flushed as I walked passed, others flying in as I arrived, a few Shoveler sifted through the cold waters, sweeping their spade like bills through the water, stirring up all manner of creatures to feast on.

Goldfinch Feeding
Goldfinch Feeding

 

Gadwall in Flight
Gadwall in Flight

 

Shoveler sitting on the banks
Shoveler sitting on the banks

 

Black-headed Gull
Black-headed Gull

 

Wigeon in Flight
Wigeon in Flight
I was soon along the path and settling into the Aqueduct hide.

Breath Taking Moment

In front of the hide a Little Egret was sat at the edge of the small spit sticking into the water, it was the only bird that didn’t dash off as I walked up the bridge to the hide, and as I sat watching the striking white bird out of the blue, like a shot from a gun, all hell suddenly broke loose as a Peregrine Falcon smashed into its back. I have seen Peregrines a number of times, I have even once witnessed a stoop (the bird then was out at sea) but I have never been witness to a strike, and especially not one within 20 metres of me!

Peregrine Moment

A few seconds later the Peregrine was back in the air, flying directly at me in the hide before heading off around the lake, flying low, trying its luck with the gulls all around, while ignoring the hassling attacks it was receiving from corvids.

Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon close to me
Looking Down the Lens – Peregrine Falcon close to me

Still in shock I sat watching and photographing this spectacle as the bird toured the lake for 15 minutes or so, before heading off over the river and into the distance.

Lots More Peregrine Photos

Swooping Peregrine
Swooping Peregrine

Swooping Peregrine
Lone Peregrine

Peregrine
Peregrine

Peregrine under attack
Immature Peregrine under attack

Peregrine moving at speed
Peregrine moving at speed

Crow trying to chase off Peregrine
In Hot Pursuit – Crow trying to chase off Peregrine
Crow trying to chase off Peregrine
Crow trying to chase off Peregrine
Peregrine with Water Tower in Background
Peregrine with Water Tower in Background

Peregrine
Peregrine

Peregrine starting a stoop
The young Peregrine starting a stoop

Peregrine flying over the Eastern Lakes
Peregrine flying over the Eastern Lakes

Final Peregrine shot
Final Peregrine shot

When I arrived home I went through the images and, as you can see in the below photo, noticed a blue ring on one of the birds legs, some investigation (Twitter) and I was in touch with the original ringer of the bird, Ed Drewitt, who has informed me the bird was rung at Salisbury Cathedral on 7th June 2016 at 3 weeks old, was one of a brood of 4 eggs, producing 2 live chicks and was thought to be a female. It is amazing to think this bird is still so young, and has headed north to see us this winter, and equally amazing as I had assumed the bird I was watching would be one of the birds I have been seeing for the past couple of years.

Close up of the blue SC ring on the Peregrine Falcon
Close up of the blue SC ring on the Peregrine Falcon

The egret? well it was fine, after standing around in shock itself for a while it eventually recovered its composure and flew off passed the hide I sat in.

Little Egret in Flight - this is the bird that was just attacked by the Peregrine
Little Egret in Flight – this is the bird that was just attacked by the Peregrine

Heading off Patch

As regular readers will know I am walking 2500 miles in 2017 (there’s a donation link over on the right hand side). And as part of that I decided today to head off patch (sorry there are no photos from here). I crossed the millennium bridge and headed up cycle route 6, the railway line tracking my walk; steady rain my only company. As I approached Castlethorpe the fields around me were suddenly alive with thrushes; hundreds of Fieldfare and Redwing were hopping through the barley stubble, searching the muddy ground for grubs and worms.

Along a farm track; drinking in the puddles, formed in by heavy tractors, were numerous finches, mainly chaffinch, but the odd Bullfinch, and Greenfinch and one stunning Yellow Hammer.

My walk continued through a corner of Castlethorpe and out across the, sheep filled, fields in the direction of Cosgrove. More thrush covered the fields, the odd Song Thrush, one Mistle Thrush and a large flock of Starling.

Footpath Closed

My walk took an “interesting” turn here, as I crossed one more grassy field and found the banks of the river Tove. I reached a gated bridge with a note from Northampton council informing me that: “The footpath was closed, due to bridge collapse” and that “there was no alternative route” a fact that is not quite true. The path will be closed for at least 6 months (how long does it take to fix a bridge?).

I realised that the Aqueduct circular walk also took this route; so rather than turn back I followed this path back. I soon found myself at a very muddy field, with a covey of 5 Grey Partridge huddled in the corner. What I would give to have them move the short distance to my patch! There was however no clear path markings (I used my O/S Map app to find the track across the middle of the field).

Returning Home

By the time I finally found myself back on cycle path 6 my boots were caked in thick mud, and pretty heavy. I was soon back on the path home. I powered through to make it back for a spot of lunch.

Some 10 miles walked and a great memory of a wonderful bird.

I’m Walking 2500 miles in 2017 to raise money for Birding For All – Read about it here – Please consider donating through My Donate

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14 Replies to “Taking my Breath Away

  1. That must have been a wonderful experience! And the photos are spectacular! Can you tell me, though, why fieldfare and redwing nearly always seem to flock together? I have always wondered.

  2. Such stunning photographs! What a magical moment indeed to see that peregrine. I've seen a little egret before too, up here in my remote north sea island home (Shetland). Such pretty birds!

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