Thursday, 17 October 2013


Well my original plan was to go up to Pitsford reservoir grab some images of the Tree Sparrows at the feeding station, they were there ok but a little skittish, now in my experience House Sparrows are easy to approach as long as you're not a complete buffon, Tree Sparrows a little trickier but still easy, but these today, just weren't playing ball, they kept nipping off, something was spooking them, then I realised, as a rat scurried past my feet and up into the bush....sod it, took a shot, looks like a youngster, and walked back to the car.
 Had a brief and nice chat with another photographer, Clive, grabbed a few shots of Lawpings as there wasn't much else there and left. I was driving along debating "Harrington or Blueberry Farm" it's a bit early for Short Eared Owls and was just about to turn off the road at Lamport and head towards Harrington airfield, not sure why but I just carried on along the road to Maidwell and Blueberry Farm, it was just a gut feeling.
 Pulled up outside the farm and parked up, chatted to one of the elder Knowle's who was telling me about Kites and Buzzards, a Tawny Owl and Barn Owl but unsurprisingly no Shorties top bloke and I always stop to chat to him, I briefly had a look in the first fields near the barns, not much happening so headed towards the track/byway that runs towards Cottesbrooke, had another chat with the son-in-law, who was telling me about the Osprey and "unknown" large bird of prey, I made a promise to bring my bird book for him next time, he knew it wasn't a Hen Harrier/Marsh Harrier and described it as Buzzard size, maybe a Goshawk?
 There was a few Jays and other common birds, but a lot of Meadow Pipits and Skylarks, at one point during one of the two showers I was caught out in, I counted circa 26 Meadow Pipit and definitely 14 Skylarks.
I was getting bored and was going to head off back to the van...once I dried off in the sun a bit, when as one, the large group of all the Skylarks and Meadow Pipits flew off alarm calling over the hedge and into the field behind me for all of a nano second a grey bird low to the ground caught my eye before disappearing, it was very far off and despite the very,very brief glimpse I knew what it was, gut feeling mind, I needed some proof but "by the time I cover the distance I saw the bird it would be long gone at that speed" I thought, I really wanted to go down to where I saw it but again my gut (I think all the walking had made me hungry) said stay put, the larks and pipits started to come over my head to settle back into the field in front of me, but still they were acting odd, putting down on the ground nearer to me then they had been, still alarm calling, and then dashing low and VERY fast but distant I saw the reason, MERLIN, I was struggling thanks to both speed of the bird/long grass/shit reflexes couldn't keep the focus on the bird, hell I was struggling to keep the bird in the viewfinder,a GREAT birder Jake once said to me that Merlin's fly on their wings, I think I asked "What does that mean?", I think I got a cryptic reply, "you'll know when you see one hunting"...thanks Jake :o), but the man was right (as always), this birds ability to change movement so quickly...well it's hard to put in words but it's unmistakable, it makes a Hobby look sluggish, honestly!
It was after the pipits and wasn't giving up, I managed some distant and poor record shots, I apologise but I couldn't keep up with it, I lost count the number of times I cursed. I woudln't mind but this bird wasn't giving up, it's pursuit was relentless, I think anything else would've gave up, I nearly did but had to get some proof for "it wasn't there" brigade.

 This one is closer but even worse the two above, it flew off towards Cottesbrooke into the sun, and its out of focus but as record shot goes IT PROVES it's a Merlin. I did tell Mike it was a female but I'm doubting that now any ideas anyone?


  1. You sound as if you had a frustrating day. The rat in the bush is a classic.
    The Merlin must have been great to watch. I enjoy reading of your wanderings.

  2. Problem is Adrian yesterday was my last day off work and now have four more to go, rain and the inability to catch up with any decent birds that I wanted and now I've got to wait for another chance of trying to catch up with the Merlin, hopefully.
    However watching this amazing bird is wired into to the small hard drive in my head for now, breathtaking speed and ability to turn on a six pence, shame the photos are probably the worse I've ever taken in my life

  3. Oh my god!!!!!! I know you don't know Doug but the Merlin has been my target bird now for the last 18 months now. I have spent many an hour in what I would call suitable habit searching for them, and to date they still elude me and I wait for my very first sighting. I have recently been to Mull, Norfolk, Staffordshire, Lincolnshire and even Northants, and yes to the very sight where you saw it only last week......twice!!!! Really well done mate, a massive pat on the back too for capturing a flight shot too!

    1. To be honest Paul I'm the same, I've been drooling at some of the top images on Birdguides, just wishing for a chance sadly the chance I got was too far away and the bird too quick, it's only my third Merlin in Northants, problem (if there is one) with Maidwell it's such a big site I wonder myself if I'll get another chance.