I thought I would spend a couple of hours sunbathing at Deadman's Hill this afternoon. All the usual suspects - Buzzards, Red Kites, Kestrels, Sparrowhawk, Sky Larks and Linnets. I thought I would finish off with a quick visit to the Quail site on the Wallington Road.
The two fields either side of the farm track are now ploughed and resown, and a quick scan round revealed a small bird of prey sitting on what appeared to be a small patch of gravel in one of the fields. The range was 300-400 metres so stretching it a bit far for even a telsecope but it looked interesting. I made my way up the track and got close enough, albeit 200+ metres, to see it was indeed a MERLIN.
It had bold bars running down the chest and underparts, a dark brown back, a rather indistict moustachial stripe but a distinct eye stripe. I went back to the car to get my camera to hopefully get a record shot but when I turned round it had flown. I eventually found it perched in the other ploughed field. I walked round the edge of the field to get the sun behind me and managed to a get a few shots from about 250 metres. At this point it flew showing the pointed wings and rapid shallow wing beats with only one glide.Based on size I would be confident that it was a female and according to Forsman (thanks to Mike Harris for this information) the rufous tinge to the lower end of the underparts indicates a fresh juvenile (Alan Reynolds)