A Lucky, Lucky Bustard A New UK Bird For Alan In Yorkshire

Little Bustard male 1

One of the many highlights of our Birdwatching Trips tours to Extremadura, Spain.

Not often that Alan twitches a bird - to go and see an individual bird at a specific spot - these days but just now and then a rarity catches the eye and the opportunity can be taken read about one such twitch. Back in August 2019 Martin, a long time birding friend, picked up Alan in Llandudno at 5am and they set off for Yorkshire. Re-wind a few weeks and a male Little Bustard had been seen at Slimbridge Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve down in Gloustershire. This would be a new bird for the UK for both Martin and Alan but frustratingly neither could make the journey down to see this major rarity. Now, we assume the same bird, was being seen in West Yorkshire not so very far from North Wales.

At 5am the roads were pretty empty and Martin and Alan were getting nervous, would the Little Bustard still be there? They were some twenty minutes from Mickletown Ings. West Yorkshire when news came in that the bird was still there, whew. Parking in nearby Pinfold Lane, thanks John Roberts for the tip, it was only a short walk along a suburban street to a rather uninteresting looking path between the houses, not the obvious place to look for a really rare bird. Was this really the right place? Taking the path we saw what we hoped to see, birders looking through their scopes, whew again.

There were only about ten people on the path that overlooked some pasture fields over to the right so plenty of space to set up scopes and scan. Immediately the Little Bustard, complete with his amazing black and white “scarf” neck pattern was seen, huge whew!

The Little Bustard in Staffordshire in August 2019 to distant for photos but a wonderful bird.

The Little Bustard was feeding in the second pasture field back from the footpath, great that is was not being disturbed but a little distant especially for photos. Through the telescopes we had good views as this Curlew sized bird stalked about regularly picking food items from the grass. We knew it was Curlew sized as a Curlew could often be seen in the same views as the bustard. More people arrived to enjoy this wonderful rarity and good report everyone was polite and considerate, making sure no one’s view was blocked and nobody entered any fields. The area where the bird can be viewed from is pretty small so if you do visit please be patient and do allow newly arrived people to see the bird, takes the pressure off and avoids tension.

Having watched the bird for about forty minutes we were thinking we might head off when someone said “its flying!” we looked but it was in fact the Curlew that had taken flight. But suddenly the Little Bustard was flying straight towards us! Then we realised why the birds had taken flight, Peregrine Falcon! This supreme raptor swept low over the field and closed in on the Little Bustard, oh no! We were thrilled and horrified in equal amount! The chase soon took both birds behind some bushes and we held our breath, was that the end of the bustard? The Peregrine would certainly be capable of taking it, but had it? Time ticked by, then the Little Bustard was flying back towards his favourite field! Massive whew! The bird landed right out in the open, no fences in the way, allowing our best views so far, then after seemingly getting itself together it moved quickly towards the edge of the field and went into long grass where only its head was just visible. We heard later that it remained out of sight for some four hours before it resumed feeding in its favourite field.

A new bird, for both Martin’s and Alan’s UK list, and great to catch up with it after not being able to get down to Slimbridge WWT earlier in the year. Sadly Little Bustards are in serious decline across their range in Southern Europe so perhaps we will not see many more reach the UK? It was certainly wonderful to enjoy this handsome male in the Yorkshire sunshine.

Lapwing male 1

Rarities are always a thrill to see but you know just take a good look at a Northern Lapwing, wow!

Having enjoyed this amazing bird, and witnessed its lucky escape, Martin and Alan headed down to Sandbach Flashes, Cheshire where a Gull-billed Tern had been seen the previous day. Sadly no sign of the tern but plenty of birds including Green Sandpiper, Black-tailed Godwit, Common Sandpiper and Lapwings.

Martin was keen to look for gulls at a park in Wolverhampton close to the football ground so that was the next venue. A lovely park with two lakes and lots of green space. It was good to see so many people enjoying the sunshine and feeding the ducks, contact with nature always great to see. Plenty of gulls mostly Lesser black backed Gulls of all ages but mostly juveniles. A few Black-headed Gulls and one or two Herring Gulls too. One of the Black-headed Gulls had a black darvic ring on and always great to find out the history of an individual bird.

A great day out and that lucky bustard will live long in the memory!

Of course a wonderful way to see more birds is to join one of our Birdwatching Trips and learn a lot about the birds you are enjoying too. We have tours suitable for all from beginners to experienced birders that are seeking particular species. Just drop us a line here and we can arrange a perfect custom tour for you!


We look forward to enjoying wonderful birds with you as soon as it is safe.

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