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Birders Tips - Birds of Prey Tips

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Old Monday 10th November 2008, 22:03   #1
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Birders Tips - Birds of Prey Tips

Hi guys

Having started the collaboration of tips, I had reccomendations to make it into 'chapters'. So search around for each 'chapter' on a certain type of birding and tips on it.

Please help contribute to help new Bird Forum members like myself and others by sharing your knowledge on Birds of Prey!

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Old Tuesday 11th November 2008, 10:51   #2
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Watch the reactions of other birds - even though you cannot see the raptor these reactions tell you there's a bird of prey (and often which one) present.


- Starlings and other small birds knot together in the presence of a Sparrowhawk.
- Sudden taking off of waders, ducks etc. indicating a Peregrine on approach - very different to eg. a Buzzard's arrival - much more panic and speed in reaction to the Peregrine.
- Learn and listen for alarm calls by various birds to indicate a raptor's presence - again different for differing bird of prey species. E.g. Swallows and House martins alarming for a Hobby's approach versus a Sparrowhawk's presence.
- Sudden panicked run-for-cover of finches, sparrows etc.
- Skies emptying of Rooks and crows etc. could indicate a Goshawk in the air.

Watch the skies. It is very easy to miss a raptor simply because they are above you - and often very high (especially in warm clear weather).
Also: scan the horizon periodically and look out for the often tell-tale signs of raptors; they tend to fly straight, directly, deliberately: even if too distant to identify you can tell they're birds of prey.

Where there's one there's often more - raptors tend to attract other birds to mob them - especially other raptors. Crows mercilessly mob Sparrowhawks and Buzzards, Sparrowhawks and Kestrels often are beligerant to each other, etc.
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Old Tuesday 11th November 2008, 13:05   #3
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Think like a raptor. Read up on their habits and habitat and search accordingly. If you see a straggler in a mixed flock; keep your eye on it- you might see it get picked off.
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Old Tuesday 11th November 2008, 16:27   #4
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One thing that has helped me locate them is to know your area and keep watching at all times for them, even if running errands on way to town etc. I know where most of the hawks here are located due to just watching anytime I am out driving. When I am ready to go take pictures of them I know where they are at, no wasted time looking, more time for photos.

Good tips on the above posts, some I hadn't thought of. Agree with see one you will probably see another. They usually travel in pairs that I have noticed.
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Old Tuesday 11th November 2008, 22:40   #5
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time of day can sometimes effect what raptors you see. Larger raptor such as buzzards and kites dont tend to get active until later in the day when the air warms up a little.

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Old Wednesday 12th November 2008, 02:26   #6
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Keep an eye on pigeons on roof tops; they will see a raptor in the sky better than you can, and will tilt their heads to follow it with one eye. Never fails; sometimes the bird of prey is so high up in the sky I can only find it by a deliberate search with binoculars, but the pigeons have alarmed me with their behaviour.
Works equally well with roosting waders. Once you notice several staring up with one eye, search the sky and you'll discover a bird of prey. ( Or a stork but that's nice, too.)

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Old Wednesday 12th November 2008, 09:19   #7
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Be patient - set up in a good location & keep looking. Recruit sharp eyed observers even if they're not brilliant ID artists, but, where possible go out with an experienced raptor watcher - not only will you see more raptors, but you can watch the birds you see critically without panicking about its identity. Use both bins and scope to scan for raptors remembering to check fence posts in exposed habitat. Don't always be too quck to swap from bins to scope - analysing a birds mode of flight and behaviour can more useful than just tracking a bigger blob! If possible take yourself off to somewhere like Tarifa so you can see lots of BoPs - confusing at first, but in 5 minutes you can see more examples of target species [honey buzzard for example] than you would in a lifetime in the UK. Get a good specialist guide -the new Collins guide to birds of prey is best for the beginner,

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Old Tuesday 2nd December 2008, 09:54   #8
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1. Get the differences between a hawk and falcon flight silhouette down in your mind, it's amazing how when first starting out you can be racking your brains between kestrel and sparrowhawk (or maybe that was just me!).

2. Remember the distinctive "flap-flap-glide" flight pattern of the sparrowhawk, and the fact kestrels are the only British BOPs that will hover for long periods. These are two of the BOPs you'll see the most, especially in urban areas, and this will mean you can often ID them in no time at all.

3. Bear in mind raptors are quite tricky, and don't beat yourself up about the ones that go past and you don't identify - remember you've seen an amazing bird, even if you didn't clinch the ID!
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Old Tuesday 2nd December 2008, 16:13   #9
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Visit a variety of habitats, woodland coastal marshes and moorland and during different seasons. Learn when the display periods for raptors are and when the young take to the air. And most important of all, don't disturb birds of prey they get enough hassle already.

I am the eagle; I live in high country, in rocky cathedrals that reach to the sky. I am
the hawk and there's blood on my feathers, but time is still turning they soon will be dry.
All those who see me, and all who believe in me, share in the freedom I feel when I fly”

Written by John Denver.
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