Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Reading RSPB Group: Unwrapping raptors

THE group enjoyed a welcome return visit from one of its most popular speakers, David Darrell-Lambert. His talk, called “Unwrapping raptors — a guide to the identification of British raptors”, was informative and highly entertaining.

It was soon apparent that identifying birds of prey could often prove tricky even for the most experienced bird-watcher.

One slide illustrated six buzzards in various colour forms and then David casually asked the group which was the honey buzzard.

Reputations of some members were soon lost as they eagerly pointed to one of the specimens on view only to be informed that not one illustration depicted such a bird.

David’s dry wit added a sparkle to the evening and everyone went home happy.

The following Sunday 11 members of the group assembled at Sheffield Bottom on the banks of the Kennet and Avon Canal for a nature ramble.

As we passed by the old mill, a party of goldcrest was active in the trees and from high up the harsh call of a nuthatch resonated.

Soon the raucous but colourful bird was spotted and the party enjoyed good views, especially when a second appeared on the scene. A little later a small flock of redwing passed overhead. The redwing is an attractive thrush which arrives in Britain each autumn to escape the harsh winters of its Scandinavian breeding grounds.

A sudden alarm call and everybody turned but only those at the rear caught a glimpse of the kingfisher as it sped by.

A second bird was spotted some minutes later which enabled the remainder of the party to view it, although as usual it did not linger but passed in a flash of blue.

The group ventured on to Hosehill Lake, a Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust nature reserve, where good numbers of wildfowl overwinter.

There were some 250 tufted duck in evidence together with handfuls of newly arrived winter visitors in the form of wigeon and pochard.

There were a couple of heron together with 25 or so cormorant and an amazing total of 13 little egret, a white heron which now breeds in the Reading area.

This latter species has advanced steadily northward over the past 30 years, first breeding in Britain at Brownsea Island in 1999, and is now an elegant addition to our native fauna. By now Sunday roast was beckoning and the group members each went their separate ways.

The next meeting of the group will take place at Pangbourne village hall on Tuesday, November 14 at 8pm when Andrew Cleave will deliver an illustrated talk entitled “Tigers and teasias”, which should prove to be a fascinating tour of the birds and wildlife of northern India.

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