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Old Monday 27th February 2012, 14:11   #1
nerdus nerdus
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Nearest Merlins to London?

Hello all

I live in south London (Brixton) and do the odd trip out to reserves near London. I would really like to see a Merlin, but donít have much of an idea where/when would be best. Any suggestions on where Iíd have a good chance of seeing one? Iím assuming either a day trip or a weekend away (ideally not too far though). Iíve done a bit of research, and these look like possibilities: Fowlmere in Cambridgeshire, Elmley Marshes or Northward Hill in Kent, Pulborough Brooks, Sussex. Could go further north though too.

Iím wondering about the time of year Ė when do the wintering ones start to head north?

Any help would be great. Thanks very much!

Will
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Old Monday 27th February 2012, 14:17   #2
Tarsiger
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Originally Posted by nerdus nerdus View Post
Hello all

I live in south London (Brixton) and do the odd trip out to reserves near London. I would really like to see a Merlin, but donít have much of an idea where/when would be best. Any suggestions on where Iíd have a good chance of seeing one? Iím assuming either a day trip or a weekend away (ideally not too far though). Iíve done a bit of research, and these look like possibilities: Fowlmere in Cambridgeshire, Elmley Marshes or Northward Hill in Kent, Pulborough Brooks, Sussex. Could go further north though too.

Iím wondering about the time of year Ė when do the wintering ones start to head north?

Any help would be great. Thanks very much!

Will
The chances of seeing a Merlin at Pulborough RSPB are pretty much nil.
Russ
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Old Monday 27th February 2012, 14:25   #3
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Merlins are sometimes spotted at RSPB Rainham Marshes, near the Dartford crossing on the north side of the Thames. If you check out their website, you may see when last one was seen. A good bet for a merlin at this time of year is Oare Marshes, near Faversham in Kent - a relatively short drive from south London and an easy day trip. It's a great reserve too, you'll see lots of other waterbirds at this time of year, waders, wildfowl and also farmland birds. I also see bearded tits every time I go there and there's a rough legged buzzard knocking around at the moment.

Good luck wherever you go.
Matt
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Old Monday 27th February 2012, 18:50   #4
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I would advise looking in Cambridgeshire, Essex, Suffolk or Norfolk. The only places so far I have seen Merlins is in Sandon area, in North Hertfordshire, Lakenheath in Suffolk and Abberton Reservoir in Essex. I have yet to see one in the south.

Merlin in London are quite rare, usually seen on passage. A few turned in North London in October last year. The most recent report was from RSPB Rainham Marshes a week ago, a female was seen.


Good luck with your search.

Carl
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Old Tuesday 28th February 2012, 13:03   #5
nerdus nerdus
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Thanks for all the tips, very helpful. I've been to Oare Marshes, would be nice to go there again. I'll also have a look at places north east of London.

Any tips on the best time of day for seeing them? Or behaviour to watch out for?

Thanks!
Will
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Old Tuesday 28th February 2012, 13:16   #6
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The chances of seeing a Merlin at Pulborough RSPB are pretty much nil.
Russ
I'm not quite sure why Russ (not arguing just don't understand). We did see one a few years ago at Pagham Harbour (North Wall end).

D
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Old Tuesday 28th February 2012, 19:49   #7
gareth_blockley
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I guess the nearset and most realiable sites would be farmland or saltmarsh along the north kent coast or south essex coast. The isle of grain and isle of sheppey should be pretty easy. Going to a well watched site where up to date gen is likely to be publisised should help you nail down a site. You may even find them at a roost site where they often join other birds, like at a hen harrier roost.
Try to find a place that is likey to support them i.e. good numbers of small birds, and where you have a good panaramic view to scan from e.g. the raptor watchpoint on the isle of sheppey or a high bit of sea wall.
Scan constantly for birds in flight or hunting. They spend a fair bit of time sat on perches such as on fence posts so check them all out. As with most birds of prey look for disturbance events when other prey birds suddenly flush.
I would imagine the birds that have spent the winter at sites will be moving pretty soon but there will be passage birds moving through over the next couple of months.

I hope that helps, good luck
Gareth
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Old Wednesday 29th February 2012, 09:58   #8
nerdus nerdus
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Thanks Gareth, that's really helpful. The Isle of Sheppey looks like a good spot.
I'll let you know how I get on.
Will
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Old Wednesday 29th February 2012, 18:21   #9
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Thanks Gareth, that's really helpful. The Isle of Sheppey looks like a good spot.
I'll let you know how I get on.

Will
there may not be merlins at pullborough brooks in sussex but i've seen one at cissbury ring and one at burpham this winter so they are about in sussex
cheers
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Old Wednesday 29th February 2012, 21:26   #10
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Sheppey definitely the best bet within easy range - if you spend a day with your eyes open around Elmley, Harty Ferry and Shellness areas, in decent weather, you'd be unlucky not to connect, I reckon.

A mate of mine saw the recent Rainham bird (pics here: http://davemobirding.blogspot.com/20...nham-rspb.html) - but they're still very unpredictable and rare here, or indeed anywhere in London. I still haven't seen one in the LNHS recording area, since moving here 8 years ago and racking up a list of 220+. A lot of records get rejected, too, so you shouldn't place total weight on the number of reports.

Another reliable site, but further away, would be the dusk raptor roost at Hickling / Horsey in E Norfolk. And you can throw in up to 100+ Marsh Harriers, Hen Harriers, Cranes etc into the bargain - well worth including in a weekend up there.
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Old Wednesday 29th February 2012, 21:38   #11
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have seen 2 merlins in about 5 years at rainham
Had one at dunge last year and at hickling in January
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Old Saturday 17th March 2012, 09:55   #12
Tarsiger
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I'm not quite sure why Russ (not arguing just don't understand). We did see one a few years ago at Pagham Harbour (North Wall end).

D
Bit late on this but for whatever reason Merlins are seen very infrequently at PB and tend not to stay. Elsewhere the surrounding downland is the best bet and, as you rightly say, Pagham harbour.
Russ
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Old Saturday 17th March 2012, 11:07   #13
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I had a Merlin at Elmley RSPB on Thursday (15th) and I think either here or Shellness (where I had one earlier in the year) are your best bets. The whole area is pretty flat and open so you can cover a larger area more easily and with all the fence post and gates, it makes searching a little easier than waiting for one to fly past. You'll also find Hen Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Peregrine and probably Short-eared Owl out there with a chance of the local Rough-legged Buzzard as well.

Pic attached of the Merlin (from Shellness in Jan), just to whet your appetite...

Andy M.
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Last edited by Andy1979 : Saturday 17th March 2012 at 11:08. Reason: Clarification
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