Saturday, 14 September 2019

Honey Buzzard and Brown Hairstreak

Considering I haven't properly been out birding today, as the post title implies it's not been too shabby at all...

I was travelling from a to b this morning with Harry in the back of the car when I figured I had time for a five minute scan over the valley from the Axmouth farm gate (if the patience of the back seat passenger allowed it!). Almost immediately I picked up a super high flying raptor circling over Colyford Marsh and it just didn't look 'right'.  It was at that point much to my frustration I realised my telescope wasn't in the car, so all I could do was watch it in my bins some more before grabbing my trusty P900. The bird was always gaining height, and I managed to get one pic before it got so high the camera would no longer focus on it.  About thirty seconds later it began a determined-looking glide heading off purposely south west.

I'd seen enough with my bins to put out news of a 'possible Honey Buzzard' to my fellow patch birders, but it wasn't until about two hours ago that I downloaded the photo onto my laptop...

Same snap but heavily cropped!

And there it is - a dark juv Honey Buzzard!  Note the long and broad tail with 2 or 3 narrow but distinct black bars, the narrow base to wings with dark bulging secondaries, black carpal patch, solidly dark brown underparts and a nice yellow bill!  Although it's a fresh juv it seems to have a damaged or missing inner primary on its left wing.

I've been fairly lucky with patch Honey Buzzard's as this represents my third, although the last one was way back on 24th Sept 2008!  Amazingly I saw the 2008 bird from exactly the same spot as today's, and that was also a lone dark juv - although thankfully flying much lower in the sky!  2008 was a proper influx year with large numbers noted in September, although most of them staying well east of us. 

2019 really is proving the year of raptors on the Axe with long-saying Osprey and Marsh Harrier, the Goshawk last month and now this! Hopefully a nice Pallid Harrier is just around the corner to finish the year off in style...

To complete my bird news for today, I had a Wheatear land on the roof next to Mum and Dad's house.  When you see a wacky thing like this you know it's a good day for migration! Plenty of Meadow Pipits flying over whenever I was outside too.

And now for the Brown Hairstreak - a first for me and following the Long-tailed Blues another butterfly first on patch!  Exactly a week ago Pam Parsons photographed a Brown Hairstreak on Colyford Common (tweeted HERE) - been only one or two patch records of this species in the last five years.  So whilst I was down the wetlands with Harry and Jess this afternoon, I left them behind for ten minutes to check the general area Pam photographed it.  As it was a whole week ago and probably involved just one insect, I really wasn't expecting anything.

I was wrong to be so pessimistic...

The first view I got - a female Brown Hairstreak!
I can only really describe the orange as 'Gatekeeper-orange'
And what an underwing!

I watched her for about five minutes, egg laying on a blackthorn just to the left of the lower entrance gate to Colyford Common.  If anyone is interested in looking for her, she spent the whole time on the lower left hand side of this bush...

Surely the very same insect!?

I've heard many people saying how hard these are to get good views of - so I was well and truly spoilt today.  A larger butterfly than I was expecting, although if it were fluttering around the top of a tall ash tree am sure it would look far smaller!  Thanks Pam for tweeting the original picture out a week ago.

Today was a nice reminder of how lucky I am to live where I do. From my house I can walk to the Brown Hairstreak bush within ten minutes, and I probably could have scoped the Honey Buzzard from my back garden! 


  1. That's a great record Steve - nice one! All the best. Matt

  2. Thanks Matt! Am sure it's a species that sneaks through Devon more often than is thought - like this one nearly did! Best wishes, Steve.