Sunday, 1 February 2015

Steppe Buzzards

Juvenile fox-red morph.  Some of the grey-brown morphs included here could be Common Buzzards. We saw a few white Commons (next post down) migrating through so I guess you would also expect a few of the more typical grey-brown birds to be involved. Many of the Steppe's do look smaller, narrower winged and with a more pointed wing-tip. The bases to the outer 4-5 primaries tend to be unbarred and strikingly white and the barring in the secondaries is usually finer/sharper. It also helps if they are red or black morphs! The grey-brown morphs are a slightly different story though.

The fox-red/rufous morphs are beautiful birds especially in a blue sky.

Adult. Fox-red?

Juvenile. Fox-red/dark rufous?

A few of the 271,583 that passed by on the 2 October. A day that everybody counting will never forget.

A cloudy 2 October began with a good movement of Marsh Harriers at both stations which unusually continued for much of the morning. As the morning progressed Black Kites got going and we had several groups of Cranes and Black Storks to keep us awake. Massive numbers of Chaffinches were also passing with the odd Brambling announcing it's presence. At midday a small kettle of Steppe Buzzards formed over Little Ginger in east 2, nothing odd about that. But I don't think any of us were prepared for what followed. The kettle got bigger and bigger and the same was happening behind us at Station 1. Suddenly the sky was literally full of raptors. Birds covered the sky from the sea to Station 2 and beyond, a distance of perhaps 5-6km. Aquila eagles and Black Storks were also in the mix. At one point the overwhelming number of birds got out of hand and we lost temporary control of the counting. It wasn't so much the colossal number of birds but the fact that there wasn't anywhere to divide them up for different people to count. The sky was a wallpaper of birds. By late afternoon the streams of Steppe Buzzards and Black Kites were becoming  more manageable and we were treated to some really nice views of  Short-toed,  Lesser Spotted, Great Spotted, Steppe and Imperial Eagles. The total raptors for the day was over 280,000 the biggest day count in the Western Palearctic and second only to the Panamerican flyway.



Juvenile. Dark rufous perhaps

Juvenile. Clean base to primaries and fine barring to secondaries visible here.


Juvenile. Slightly coarser barring in the secondaries than above two juveniles. The barring in the inner primaries can appear heavier than it actually is depending on the light and angle.



Juvenile. I compared photos of English juvenile Common Buzzards to Batumi grey-brown juveniles and found no consistent differences in plumage markings.

Same juvenile as above. This looks like a bird that I would encounter at home in England.

2CY dark morph. Nice and easy. P8-10 are juvenile in right wing and P7-10 in left wing.

Juvenile. Coarser barring to secondaries and inner primaries. Appears broad winged and chunky.


Adult. Fox-red or dark rufous?


Fine barring to secondaries and inner primaries and large pale upper primary patch. Warm brown tones to the underparts.

Adult. Grey-brown morph. Some are not as bright as this one.

Adult fox-red morph

A really smart bird. The classic Steppe Buzzard shape can really be appreciated here. However, females are generally bigger and heavier. I would say this is a male.


Juvenile - coarse barring in the secondaries and inner primaries.

Juvenile. A gingery individual which I guess will turn into a red morph.

2CY fox-red?. Juvenile P9-10 and 1-2 just visible juvenile secondaries.

Adult. Fox-red or dark rufous? Depends what book you look in.


Juvenile. Fox-red morph


Juvenile. Fox-red

Steppe Buzzards don't behave themselves like Honey Buzzards do. They form kettles then join other kettles before leaving and joining their previous kettle. Makes counting them really difficult and when the moment finally arrives to count them they then disappear into cloud.

A battalion of Steppe Buzzards approaching Station 2 on 2 October.