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Steart Marshes - Boxing Day 2014

Steart Marshes - 26 December 2014 (morning)

1 Merlin (female/juvenile type) - perched for 20 minutes on driftwood tree in front of Mendip Hide. Flew off low and was seen to stall and drop vertically towards the ground twice in unsuccessful attempts to capture separate Meadow Pipits. Lost to view out on the marshes.

1 Peregrine (adult female) - flying around and perched on a favoured pylon perch for at least an hour.

5 Kestrel - all hover-hunting.

1 Sparrowhwawk (adult female) - perched on fence posts and low in a Hawthorn tree as it hunted around Otterhampton Marshes for 30 minutes.

2 Marsh Harrier (juvenile and adult female) - both quartering low over the marshes. The juvenile was wing-tagged with a single Green patagial tag in its right wing (Left wing untagged). Unfortunately, too far away and light too poor to read the code but seems likely to have been 'L1' - an individual that has been sighted several times recently on the Somerset Levels not far away.

8+ Common Buzzard - loafing about on low perches and on the ground.


10,000+ Dunlin
2,000+ Golden Plover
320+ Redshank
8+ Little Egret
220+ Wood Pigeon - heard incredibly loud rumbling / rushing sound in the sky above me. Looked up and witnessed a tight flock of 180+ individuals literally tumbling out of the sky at high speed from extremely high (at least 300m) up. They landed in trees just West of the main car park. Amazing spectacle!
30+ Meadow Pipit
6+ Stonechat

1 Red Fox
12 Roe Deer
Badger - recent snufflings and fresh latrine near Mendip Hide.


Re: Steart Marshes - Boxing Day 2014

Hi Nick, about 25 years ago, I was in Belle Tout Wood, Beachy Head, and heard the same extraordinary rumbling sound you describe. A group of wood pigeons dropped vertically into the wood, and I then saw a peregrine fly past, which they were presumably taking evasive action from. I suspect this is 'normal' panic evasion tactic they have, but it's dramatic, isn't it? Anyone else experienced it? Dan Lupton

Re: Steart Marshes - Boxing Day 2014

Season's Greetings Dan,

Thanks for sharing your interesting observation.

I suspected that the Pigeons may have been evading a Peregrine so immediately searched the sky but found nothing unfortunately.

Certainly an impressive spectacle both for the sight and sound.

Best regards,


Re: Steart Marshes - Boxing Day 2014

Same thing has happened three times at Hurlstone recently and it does take you by surprise. Here they were virtually just overhead coming up from sea level and then rounding the Point. They do give you quite a start and the noise was quite incredible. On each occasion the flocks of Wood Pigeon were between 150-200 and on one of these they were pursued by a Peregrine.

Re: Steart Marshes - Boxing Day 2014

Thanks Brian, interesting observations. The flock I saw were originally very high up, perhaps on the move ahead of the cold weather arriving from the North? Season's Greetings, Nick.