Friday, 20 June 2014


 With further reports that the Short-toed Eagle was still enjoying its holiday in the Ashdown Forest, Terry and I decided to pay a visit. I've never seen an eagle in England, the Golden at Hawes Water in the Lake District eluded me despite fell walking in the area for several years.
We arrived at Gills Lap car park at about 11am where a considerable array of scopes, binoculars and cameras were pointing to the valley across the road where the eagle likes to sit and to hunt. I always feel uncomfortable in these situations, it's like arriving, stone cold sober, at a party that's already in full swing. Anyway, as usual, the crowd was friendly and we soon gathered that the star of the show had disappeared over the horizon some considerable time ago and hadn't been seen since. We decided to walk the area and hope for a flyover at some point
The flyover didn't happen. but entertainment was found with Stonechats, Linnets, Coal Tits, Green Woodpeckers, Willow Warblers and a party of four Common Crossbills.

Given that we were only half a mile or so from the Old Lodge reserve we decided to pay it a visit in the hope of finding some dragonflies around the small, dark, peaty ponds that the ponies on the reserve like to drink from. The first few ponds yielded just a couple of damsels but the last one, nearest the edge of the site was home to a couple of Broad-bodied Chasers who entertained us for a while and gave us a chance to use the cameras. The male is above, he perched regularly at the far end of the pond and when I looked at the pictures of him I noticed he'd picked up a tiny passenger. Left click the pic to see what I mean. The female is below and she never settled and spent all her time ovipositing and mating on the wing.  

 After a short while an Emperor dragonfly arrived on the scene and of course we had to try for some in flight shots. Above and below are the slightly better efforts.

With the sun disappearing, we decided to call it a day and return to the car, diverting only to watch a superb male Redstart catching flies for at least one recently fledged juvenile.

As we approached the car park I noticed a movement in the grass ahead of us which turned out to be two juvenile Woodlarks. A nice find to what we thought was the end of the day......... we watched the larks Terry's pager informed him that Eddie the Eagle had returned and was currently entertaining the masses back at Gills Lap. We returned immediately, giving a lift to another eagle hunter who had also pitched up, in desperation, at Old Lodge reserve.

We had super views of this magnificent eagle and i'm very grateful for that. But, by now the weather had changed and a cold wind was blowing very dark clouds across the sky and the light was absolutely awful.

No matter how hard I tried I couldn't get a decent picture of the bird as it circled overhead and drifted across the valley hunting for snakes. These are the best I could do. Better than nothing I suppose.


Marc Heath said...

You got it in the end and some lovely shots too.

Greenie said...

Phil ,
Well done , and you got closer than I managed the other day .
Hoping for another crack tomorrow.
Like the juv Woodlark shots too .

Frank said...

Phil, I'm delighted for you that you didn't go home empty handed.

Jason K said...

Great stuff Phil...I know the Eagle was the star of the show but I think I would be just as chuffed at finding the young Woodlarks!

Warren Baker said...

Might go and have a look for that eagle on Sunday Phil :-) Those shots would be exceptable in my collection mate!

Ken. said...

Well worth the visit, nice pics, I would be proud of those.. Would liked to have been able to have seen it for myself. Perhaps if it hangs around a bit longer I might get there.
Always nice to see a Redstart.

Marianne said...

Brilliant - glad you got the eagle in the end :) It seems to be a real crowd-pleaser, even my most resolutely anti-twitching birding friend has gone to see it. The dragonfly flight shots are outstanding, and the Woodlarks are enchanting.