25th October – twitching the Pallid Swift – the Sparrowhawk strikes again?   Leave a comment

Feeling I needed to see some rare birds before this autumn drew to a close I headed off to Christchurch to look for a Pallid Swift that was found yesterday afternoon. Although quite common in southern Europe and parts of the Middle East, Pallid Swift is a major rarity in Britain, although the fact that they are so hard to identify in all but perfect light may mean that ones occurring between May and August, when Common Swifts are present, are just overlooked.

My only other experience of this species in the UK was of two on Portland in November 1984.


Although I got some mediocre photos from the field behind the houses, Brett Spencer


For some reason I had thought the swift had been showing close to the 900 year old Christchurch Priory, so I found a car park to the west of there and started walking eastwards.


The area known as Two Rivers Meet where the River Stour and River Avon meet before flowing into Christchurch Harbour is very picturesque.


Although I have been to the Christchurch birding hotspots of Hengistbury, Wick and Stanpit over 100 times I don’t know the Two Rivers Meet area at all, so these exclusive flats with a private harbour and moorings were a surprise.


Eventually, in worsening light, I neared the golf course which lies north of Stanpit Marsh and saw a swift distantly. Any swift species in October is likely to be a rarity as all Common Swifts leave Britain for Africa by mid-August, but views weren’t good enough to allow identification.


I was able to get much closer and get some decent views of the Pallid Swift (here being followed by a Goldfinch)


With my parking ticket running out I returned to the car and drove around to the nearby houses where the bird had been showing well. As I parked it flew over my head. As I stopped to speak to Weymouth birder Brett Spencer we saw a Sparrowhawk appear from nowhere and pass within inches of it. We didn’t see it actually strike as they vanished below the level of the roofs but we assumed it had met an untimely end.

Pallid Swift, Valle di Templi, 27-Apr-12 (3) L

Pallid Swift photographed in Sicily by gobirding.eu. Key ID features compared to Common Swift include the scaly underparts, paler head and throat, a paler area in the outer secondaries and inner primaries compared to the rest of the wing and darker underwing coverts compared to the body.



Although I got some mediocre photos from the field behind the houses, Brett Spencer, who was much closer and there during the earlier sunny spell got some superb shots which can be seen at http://bretteeblahblahblah.blogspot.co.uk/


Posted October 25, 2013 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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