It has been a good winter for Rough-legged Buzzards, with three working the grazing marshes that flank the Rivers Waveney and Yare, inland from Yarmouth. It is one of my favourite parts of East Anglia and getting out on the marshes delivers you back into the wild and into the winter realm of these and other birds.
I had not chosen the best of days for my visit but I had been cooped up at home, head down and working, for too long. I needed to clear my thoughts and re-engage with the landscape and its wild creatures; the north coast would be too busy and so the marshes beckoned. Parking at St. Olaves I struck out north through the boatyards and up onto the bank that skirts Fritton Marsh, leading out onto ‘The Island’. A small team of reed cutters were at work, a stack of recently cut reeds the sign of a productive morning and their distant banter matched by the chattering calls of a passing party of Bearded Tits.
It was a good walk out to my chosen viewpoint and, with many stops along the way to scan and watch a mix of waders and wildfowl, I found that I had used up the best of the weather. No sooner had I settled down by the old mill than the darkening clouds released a flurry that moved from sleet to snow and back again. I had banked on these just being showers but right now this was not good weather for seeing buzzards. In fact two of the Rough-legged Buzzards were here but, like me and like a solitary Marsh Harrier, they were hunkered down and sitting out the shower. One was sat on the stout upright of a farm gate, several hundred metres distant; the other, further off to the right, was on the deck. There is very little that looks more miserable than a raptor in the wet and the mood of one of the two birds was not helped by the fact that it was being harassed by some of the local corvids. For the next fifty minutes we sat out the shower and then, gradually, a growing pale band on the horizon gestured at better weather moving in.
The brightening sky brought better viewing conditions. I was able to watch the closer bird, which also sensed the better conditions, as it shook itself and looked around. I didn’t think I would see it take to the air and begin hunting but it did make one short flight in response to the crows. More showers followed, prompting my departure, but I went away with the sense that I had shared something with these birds today.