Monday, March 1, 2010

Buzzard variations

My birding over the weekend was pretty much limited to the garden, for one reason and another, although I did manage to walk a little two-mile circuit close to my house yesterday afternoon.

But home and away, the most noticeable birds were Buzzards, in pairs, soaring and mewing away like crazy. A pair drifted fairly low right over my garden at one point, a first, although I’ve seen one in the nearby cemetery regularly.

These days, they’re the UK’s commonest raptor, but the sound of them always makes me think back to the days when they were a comparatively rare treat on a trip to the Peak District or Wales.

It’s fast reaching a point when some birders don’t pay them much attention (although quite apart from anything else, it's always worth checking fro the possibility of Rough-legged Buzzard).

But one of the real pleasures of Buzzards is the variation in plumages. Within 15 miles of home, there’s one very pale bird, appearing almost white from a distance, and another very dark one. And then, driving into work this morning, I saw one on a roadside fencepost that, while mid-brown, had only the merest hint of the U-shaped pale breast band that’s usually such a distinctive feature. Variety - it's the spice of birdwatching.

Matt Merritt, features editor

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