I've seen several Rough-legged Buzzards in the UK and Europe over the last few years but was a little disappointed to have missed out on the Buckton bird a couple of weekends ago, a bird making up part of an obvious influx of this beautiful Buteo into the U.K with at least 31 and 36 birds reported in the country in the last two weeks. My friend in Norway has recently broken the Lista Bird Observatory day record of Rough-legged Buzzard with 121 birds through in a day (beating previous day record of 110 birds that has stood since the 1970s).
Last week I saw an incredible set of Rough-legged Buzzard photos posted on the Yorkshire pages on Birdforum, taken by Renton Charman taken up at Sleddale/Commondale area of Yorkshire/Cleveland. Apparently there was at least 4 birds in the area so when my wife indicated she'd like to go on a trip to Whitby I didn't hesitate - If I'd have known it was the goth weekend I may have changed my mind! Whitby was rammed! A pheasant flying through the centre of town was a little bit of a surprise! After a very nice fish and chip lunch we headed onto the moors for a pleasant drive.
Renton Charman has very kindly allowed me to use his excellent Rough-legged Buzzard pictures (below). Please note that these images are © Renton Charman 2010 and are not for reproduction without the permission of Renton Charman.
We made out way up through the moorland seeing a couple of Red Grouse and lots of Chaffinch, Redwing and Fieldfare. Rounding the corner west of Commondale we saw a group of cars and pulled up amongst them. Within seconds I was onto a Rough-legged Buzzard as it came over the nearby ridge - excellent I thought, got it, and without having to wait for an age. Whilst on this bird a sudden flash indicated a Peregine was present and for a few seconds the pair of birds hustled with each other, before both dropping over the ridge.
A few moments later a Common Buzzard got up in front of us, with another 2 Common Buzzards behind us, then a Rough-legged Buzzard joined the Common Buzzard in front of us, followed by another, then another, then another, these birds were then joined by two Peregrine Falcons! It was difficult to know where to look!
The Rough-legs were gliding, soaring, hovering and hunting over the moors, occasionally coming fairly close too. In direct comparison to the Common Buzzards the Rough-legs looked larger and longer winged with pale (buffy) heads and white inner tail. They are truly spectacular birds. 3 of the birds were clearly juvenile/1st year birds with the fourth bird being an adult. Talking to a few local birders it is considered likely that there may be as many as 6-8 birds in the various valleys in the area. If these birds stick throughout the winter I'll definitely be going back for further looks. Great birds and great landscape.
In keeping with recent trends I also had more distant views of another Great Grey Shrike, this time sat atop a distant tree! This is my third Great Grey Shrike of the Autumn (I could have had a lot more if I'd gone for all of those around Flamborough at the end of September/beginning of October instead of trying to find something rare!).