Just had a very strange looking falcon fly over the house (West Somerset). It was flying at a fair height and circling round for a few minutes. It appeared larger than a hobby and smaller than a peregrine. The main thing about it was that the underside appeared almost black. There was a small amount of lighter colour on the throat which did not extend very far back. The closest I can find in BWP is a dark morph sooty falcon (very unlikely I know). It is possible that it is an escape although it was not close enough to see rings or even jesses.
Anybody any ideas?
Just got in and read your message. Thanks for sharing this intriguing observation. From your description, the most likely candidate just might be Eleonora's Falcon. This would be an amazing record but it's certainly not impossible, especially at this time of year.
Please can you provide more information on the location and in which direction the falcon was it travelling when you lost it. And have you seen it since? Or perhaps you've not had any opportunity to look.
Thanks for that Nick
The bird was over Leigland Chapel, which is near Roadwater. It flew off towards Raleghs Cross and towards the higher moor. I have re read my original description and feel that it may need clarifying. The bird was quite high but I was using binoculars. The underparts were very dark and there was a slight suspicion of lighter areas, however there was certainly no barring or streaking. I have been looking at the skies all day, but have not seen the bird again. Hope this is of some use to you.
Thanks for your reply.
Your descriptions seem a reasonable fit for a dark morph Eleonora's Falcon, but even well marked pale morph individuals can sometimes appear from a distance to have dark underparts.
The silhouette of a soaring Eleonora's Falcon is rather distinctive with thick-based, rakish wings and a longish tail, rather different from other falcons that occur in Britain. A non-breeding, second calendar year individual is perhaps the most likely candidate because they appear to wander widely (including in July) and these should generally show some contrasting brown colouration on the underwings.
I'll try to post a couple of images later so that you can view them whilst the details of your observation are still fresh in your mind.
I was hoping you might have seen it disappear off Eastwards but it sounds as if it might well be on its way back south. We know from satellite tracking data that falcons can readily travel several hundred kilometres in a day, and can also carry on through the night if they feel like it. But, with a bit of luck, perhaps someone in Devon or Cornwall will see it before it leaves Britain?
I've uploaded a couple of images at the 'website' link at the end of this message.
You may also be interested in the following:
A short paper detailing the 1st British Record in 1977:
The RareBirdAlert report of a record from Cornwall in August last year.
Any further thoughts on whether all this fits with your observations earlier today?
The pictures would seem to show a lighter breast than my bird although I am sure that there must be some variation. The silhouette of the Cornwall bird was certainly similar but I would not be able to positively ID it as an Eleonora's . The tail was certainly long and my first thought when I saw it flying towards me at distance was that I was looking at a cuckoo. This was very obviously not the case when I got it in the binoculars. Thanks for your interest and knowledge. I will keep watching the skies.
This bird may be a bit of a stayer as it seems to be the same bird as was seen over Bampton Devon 13/7/13. I have not posted a siting before so please bear with me.
When I saw the bird my first thought was a hobby. After watching for a while
longer it looked to be a little to big for a hobby.
I only observed the bird with the naked eye but it did come close enough to see the lighter colouring in the neck area and the under parts were very dark, almost black although this may have been due to the very bright blue sky and good light conditions.
Good birding to you all,
This does sound very much like the bird that I saw and Bampton is only about 12 miles as the falcon flies. I work most days in Dulverton, so if it is a stayer I may catch up with it again.
I scouted the area where you saw the falcon for five hours this morning until rain stopped play. No joy unfortunately, but flying conditions were rather poor (overcast and almost still) so I would have expected most falcons to be sitting quietly on an inconspicuous perch, preening!
Welcome to the MessageBoard Mike. It's impossible to say whether or not the two sightings relate to the same bird. Certainly, 12 miles is only a few minutes flying time for a falcon. However, without binoculars and in the light conditions you describe, I think it might be difficult to rule out your falcon being a Hobby, particularly a 2cy individual.
Also, most of the previous accepted records of Eleonora's Falcon have been rather brief, so much so that it's a species that I understand is missing from the lists of the vast majority of even the most hardcore twitchers.
Incidentally, I note that there are two recent claims published on BirdGuides, as follows:
19 July 2013 - Abberton Reservoir, Essex
20 July 2013 - Southampton, Hants
I don't have any other details (ie. age, morph, etc.) of these alleged sightings but it's surely conceivable that a falcon could range around the SW peninsula for a few days without being seen.
It would be great if someone else reports it over the coming days, otherwise I think you'll both have to add it to the ever increasing list of 'ones that got away'!
Keep skywatching and best regards,
Many years ago I saw a falcon on my local patch which was Severnside. By size, I thought Peregrine at first, but it was quickly clear that this was no Peregrine. I too looked through the books and came up with dark morph Sooty Falcon as a best fit for colour and size.
However I then discovered that others had seen what must have been the same bird over a period of months in the same area and the consensus of opinion was that it must be an Eleanora's Falcon. A few years later I went to Greece and saw Eleanora's and they certainly looked much the same.
The bird on Severnside would go missing for weeks and then suddenly be seen in a fast flyby with no one able to get a detailed description or view for more than a few seconds. I considered melanistic Hobby, but the size and extra long tail were what marked it out from a Hobby. My point is that they can hang around, so keep looking.
In view of the above sightings, the following may be of interest. On 23 May at New Fancy View in the Forest of Dean I picked up a falcon circling low over the trees in the valley, about half a mile away. It looked like a Peregrine or a Hobby: I could clearly see an all dark crown and a very white face, which was obvious as it turned when circling, but it was rather a dark brown above. I was unable to obtain a proper view of the underparts, but I did have a very clear view of the undertail-coverts and ventral area, which were buff, appearing identical in shade to those of a juvenile Hobby. I was thinking that it must be a first-summer Hobby but, as it came closer, it looked too big for a Hobby, and my thoughts turned to Peregrine. However, as it rose higher, I became even more confused: although it appeared to be a big falcon, it lacked the bulk of a Peregrine. This was particularly apparent when it turned side-on, it failing to show the rather fat, cigar-like body shape of Peregrine - its shape was much more like that of a Hobby. It continued to circle upwards but, once it cleared the horizon and rose above eye level, it became more-or-less a silhouette against the bright sky. At this point, I was back to thinking that it had to be a first-summer Hobby when, suddenly, out of the blue, it was dive-bombed by a much smaller falcon. To my amazement, the mobbing bird was a Hobby! So it was a big falcon after all! As it circled, the Hobby continued to mob it but, after maybe two or three dives, the two birds settled down and circled around together quite amicably for about ten minutes, slowly rising in the sky. The mystery bird was much bigger than the Hobby, appearing about 1½ times the size but, structurally, it was extremely similar. Its wings were noticeably slim and very pointed so that its wing-shape appeared virtually identical to the Hobby’s, but they were considerably and conspicuously longer. When viewed back-on, they were very slightly bowed, just like the Hobby’s, but when soaring they were gently up-curved at the tips. It had an easy fight action with just shallow, languid flaps of the wings. The most significant feature was the tail: when closed it was obviously long, slim and distinctly rounded at the tip. Not only was it physically longer than the Hobby’s, but it was also proportionately longer and this difference was obvious at all times. The size and shape of the tail were even more striking when it was partially spread: then, not only was it obviously long and rounded, but it was also slim and pinched-in at the base. When fully spread it was full and broad with a strikingly rounded tip, creating a very distinctive fan shaped outline. Also obvious, particularly in a profile view, was that it had a small, pointed and protruding head, rather like the difference between a Goshawk and a Sparrowhawk or a Honey Buzzard and a Common Buzzard. Its body was indeed slim, just like the Hobby’s - in fact it had no bulk or weight to it whatsoever, it completely failing to show the sturdy, broad-breasted look of a Peregrine. I really cannot emphasise how distinctive it was. It could best be summed up by likening it to a giant long-headed, long-winged, long-tailed juvenile Hobby, the whole outline appearing more elongated and more rakish, as if it had been stretched in every direction. Eventually, the two birds separated and the larger bird gained height and glided off high to the east – I followed it to a little dot in the distance. It had been in continuous view for the best part of 15 minutes, about ten minutes actually with the Hobby.
Unfortunately, I didn’t see all the plumage details and, in the absence of photographs, there’s obviously nothing I can do with the record. But I’d bet my old boots that it was an Eleonora’s. Interestingly, satellite tracking in Spain and France has recently revealed that, prior to settling on their breeding grounds, they often move considerable distances inland (up to 400 km) often frequenting forested and even agricultural areas.
have a look at my post from today which was at Buckland st mary top of the Hill gliding towards Staple hill very unusual Falcon very similar in description to yours but i couldn't see facial colours as i had no optics
Great to hear from you again! And thanks very much for sharing your fascinating description of what appears to tick virtually all the boxes for an Eleonora's Falcon. What a pity that it was just out of range for you to be able to obtain a full description. The colouration of the undertail coverts suggests that it may have been an immature (2cy) falcon, but these too range widely. Many years ago I found one in Central Anatolia in early May, about 350km inland and probably 500km from the nearest known breeding colony.
Here's hoping you turn up another one - CVL should provide some good feeding opportunities!
Hi Nick - good to hear from you too! Hope you've managed to escape from Temple Quay. I read an article online by Andrea Corso which suggested that my bird was most likely a 2cy - particularly with regard to the brownish upperparts and buff undertail-coverts. I suppose it's a sign of the times that you can age a bird nowadays but not identify it! I'm sure it's only a matter of time before a twitchable Eleonora's turns up - Noah's Lake next summer?
You did identify it Keith, just didn't get enough of a description for official acceptance.
Paul, I hope for it to turn up at Chard now. Buckland St Mary isn't so far away. Or over my house in Taunton would be fine, so long as I see it and not someone else.
Today around 2 p.m. over Brean Down a very dark falcon passed me several times, the closest about 100m. First impression Peregrine but with closer view much darker above and below and wings long.
I live in the middle of the Blackdowns and there is definitely something strange in this neighbourhood!
I was sitting in my garden at 5pm today when a large falcon approached from the north. It was being pursued by a few shrieking hirundines. It was flying at quite low level. It was large and slim with very long narrow wings which it held somewhat folded back as it flew. It flew with quite slow and forceful, almost exaggerated, wing beats. Initially I saw it against a background of trees and fields and formed the impression that it was dark chocolate-brown in colour. It did not loiter but passed through in a very rapid and determined manner flying in a SSW direction.
I am familiar with most of our local raptors (hobby, peregrine, sparrowhawk, buzzard) and this was definitely not one of them! It had me leaping out of my chair with excitement.
I have only once seen an Eleanora's Falcon and that was on a Greek island some decades ago. I cannot therefore say that it was one but, looking in the guide after the event, I would not be surprised if it were eventually identified as such. I will make sure I sit out with my camera from now on.
I saw a large falcon near Buckland st mary last week i posted on the site, it came from Buckland towards staple hill possibly the same bird?