Sunday, 1 June 2014

Wykeham Forest, North Yorkshire: goshawks and more......

Sunday 1June
Early morning start to attempt to see honey buzzards from the Wykeham Forest raptor viewpoint.  First to arrive just before seven, I enjoyed a beautiful sunny morning as more people gathered, some with folding chairs and picnics.  I have seen the honeys here once before, but failed on my most recent visit.  The first couple go hours were enlivened with views of hunting goshawks, fly-over crossbill and siskin, and a smart male bullfinch.  Around the viewpoint were singing willow warblers, whitethroats and blackcaps.  The viewpoint looks over a pastoral valley surrounded by forest, mainly conifer plantations of varying ages, and beyond to further plantations on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors National Park.

At about ten, a large raptor was spotted by my neighbour on one of the benches. It was large and had a differed jizz to the buzzards and goshawks we had been watching.  I immediately thought, this looks like a white-tailed sea eagle.  I had seen lots in Norway last year and wouldn't have thought twice about the id if I'd seen it there.  But it was hard to believe I could be watching one in Yorkshire.  What else could it be?  We lost sight of it for a short while, but then it reappeared and started circling slowly upwards and all the key features could be seen clearly.  Huge slightly bulging wings, shortish tail that glinted with white as it caught the sun, dark underneath but a bit paler above, also the head was large and paler.  It was quite distant so it was not as totally obvious as you might expect.  But as it disappeared upwards and northwards into the cloud everyone was convinced this was a sea eagle.  Soon the news was put out on the grapevine.  Sea eagles have been reintroduced into Eastern Scotland recently, so it is likely that this sighting will become a more regular event for east coast birders.

I stayed on until after eleven but no sign of a honey buzzard.  Heading back to the small car park,a turtle dove was singing away.  There is a small area of weedy cultivated fields nearby which, in combination with scrubby forestry, seems to be sustaining a small population of these rapidly declining birds in North Yorkshire.  

Buoyed by my unexpected eagle sighting, more than compensating for the honey buzzards, I headed back to Wombleton.

Checking Yorkshire sea eagle sightings on Google I discovered that one had been seen from the same viewpoint back in March, with a great write-up and pics.  The plumage of the two birds is quite similar and it is quite possible it is the same sub-adult bird.

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