We were excited to run our second Raptor Ramble event near Burpham on Saturday, following the success of the first last November. We and the nine participants headed out from the village, passing the Arun water meadows and the treatment works, an added extra for this time around.
The wintering herd of 15 Bewick's Swans were grazing in the distance, but everybody got a good look through the telescopes at this special visitor from Siberia. The treatment works aren't the most glamorous spot for birding but the abundance of insects was keeping several Chiffchaffs and a Grey Wagtail well fed. We also enjoyed some nice views of Redwings and Long-tailed Tits before heading towards The Burgh for the main event...
Within minutes we spotted our first Red Kites and Buzzards floating effortlessly around the rolling hills. Then an adult male Kestrel gave fantastic views to the group as it hovered by the roadside. From the 'triangle' we quickly added Peregrine Falcon and Sparrowhawk to the list of raptors seen and had a thrilling encounter with a Brown Hare as it raced by just feet away from the gate. A flock of Lapwings appeared over the far hills before giving a much closer fly-by.
On the way to the main area of rough grassland, we were entertained by some Grey Partridges and a big flock of Linnets, flitting between a hedgerow and one of the fields. A pair of Ravens and a Buzzard were bickering over a carcass down the slope, then two Peregrine Falcons tore over the fields together!
Before we even reached our stakeout point, we spotted two Hen Harriers quite far ahead of us! There has been one in the area this winter, which we were hoping to see, but two was beyond our expectations. Thankfully, one stuck around long enough for us to get to a closer viewing position, at which point it was joined by a female Marsh Harrier, the two hunting the same area for several minutes. Another Sparrowhawk shot through, while Red Kites and Buzzards continued to appear.
Just when we thought it couldn't get much better, a Merlin dashed in low from the left, bolting through the valley. Happily, we managed to describe its flight path quickly enough for most of the group to see it before it vanished over the horizon.
We were really hoping for Barn Owl at dusk, and we gave it till after 5pm but the wind was up and it was spitting occasionally, so we all accepted that we had lucked out with so many amazing diurnal birds of prey, we'd have to hope for owls on a still evening. With eight species of raptor, everybody was delighted with the afternoon.