Like the ghost of winter, there have been reports of Rough Legged Buzzard out on the Ribble marshes for the last few months, and yesterday Neill Hunt and Tropical Thomason caught up with a very interesting raptor that they managed to get a few pictures of at distance.
Let's be quite clear about this, Neill and Tropical are too experienced as birders to put a name to a bird when they are not 110% happy, especially with notoriously fickle raptors, so well done to them for sending me the pics in the first place, so others can have a look and get some debate going.
Thanks too to Dominic Harmer (English Nature) and Tony Baker (RSPB) who have also discussed the sighting with me.
Top picture by Neill is of the bird as it, erm, takes a crap (I've always been worried about him you know).
From Neill's picture, it all seems very straightforward - nice pale tail, with a clear dark terminal band, pale headed, blazing white primary base patch and nice black primary tips - bingo Rough Legged Buzzard?
Perhaps there should be more feathering about the legs, but if the bird is hoisting itself up, its trousers may ride up too.
Neill's next shot is thought provoking too - a picture of the front of the bird, showing plumage similar to that of an adult male Rough Legged, supercilium and all, although the chin maybe a little pale.
The first two pictures clearly show a dark line through the eye - a classic RLB diagnostic.
And look at that big white vent.
Belly pattern looks good, but should it be more barred rather than solid in a mature male?
Tropical's next shot shows a fierce jizz, a hefty bill, good belly pattern and interesting plumage features.
But his last shot does spark a few Common Buzzard type questions.....
It does however appear to show wingtips reaching almost to the end of the tail.
Unfortunately the boys never managed to see the upper tail, which is of course, pretty distinctive.
This is a thought provoking bird - but before we get into i.d. debate, I must point out that this bird has only been encountered once or twice over the winter - it is not a staked out twitch!!!!
It is also NOT around Baxters/Old Hollows Farm, Banks, so don't park there.
Your best bet if you want to have a look for yourself is to go to Hundred End and take the footpath on the bend (by the bus stop and English Nature sign) out onto the seawall and watch from there.
You could be really green and get the bus out from Southport, as parking is limited in the area.
Access elsewhere on the seawall is now not possible because of work due to start on the great new reserve site (see previous blog entry).
Anyway, what do YOU think it is?
Thoughts in the comments box please (put that copy of Dick Forsman down - no cheating!).
Eyes to the skies everybody, eyes to the skies