Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Red-footed falcon revisited

With a bit of free time on a beautiful summers evening I decided to have another look at the red-footed falcon in Staffordshire. My thinking was that when I had been there on Saturday morning the sun had been in a bad position for photography, but in the evening it might be much better, and this proved correct.

When I arrived the sun was directly behind me and on the bird, which was sitting on the ground about 20m in front of the line of photographers. It remained here for about 90 minutes, but it wasn't completely inactive. Red-footed falcons hunt invertebrates on the ground, and occasionally it entertained us by sprinting off in a comical kind of way after some unseen prey. Finally a horse got too close and the bird flew, frustratingly away from us and landed on top of a low building about 100m away.

It didn't stay there long though, and soon it was back on the ground, though still nearly 100m away. The light had been perfect through all of this and the bird had shown well, but tantalisingly we were still waiting for the encore and its signature piece.

Eventually it did what we all hoped for and landed on the wires above us at close range, where it remained for about 20 minutes, occasionally dropping to the ground briefly to pounce on prey, before returning to the wire. A kestrel flew over a little too close and the red-footed falcon chased it away and once again returned to its perch. A beautiful bird and a great experience.

Hunting prey red-footed falcon style! Observing rare and scarce birds is so much more than just obtaining the tick, contrary to what many normal (non-twitching) folk usually assume. It can also be about observing behaviour which you wouldn't otherwise see in commoner British species, and this is one of the reasons why I often go back for a second look if the bird is reasonably handy. This falcon for example ran around on the grass chasing invertebrates. Now I know that kestrels land on the ground and take inverts, but I've never seen them running around and pouncing on prey like this bird. It also landed on horse dung and dug it's way through it looking for beetles, before finally perching up on the wires and hunting like a shrike. A really interesting bird.

Looking for beetles in horse dung!

It was completely unphased by the horses and allowed them to approach quite close before flying away.

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