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Birdwatcher’s Diary No.286 “Tell ’em About the ‘Honey’ Mummy!” A Summer Special

Published on: 27 Aug, 2023
Updated on: 31 Aug, 2023

By Malcolm Fincham

One really has to be of a certain vintage to recall the classic 1970s Sugar Puff’s TV advertisement. Although not relating much in looks to the advert’s main character, “the honey monster” still reminds me of a school-day friend.

However, on this occasion, I’m relating to a lesser known “honey monster”, and as much dependant on the existence of the sweet, viscous substance. This one is of the avian world.

Similar in size to our common buzzard, the honey buzzard is only a summer resident to Britain, wintering in tropical Africa. Only 30 pairs or so are known to breed here, mostly within southern counties of the UK.

Although honey buzzards have increased slightly in number in the UK since the start of this century, with so few breeding pairs they are restricted to undisturbed gladed woodlands where they spend much of their time foraging below the canopies.

They are renown to be very elusive, being extremely secretive and hard to detect. Furthermore, those that study honey buzzards are historically as secretive as the birds themselves.

Young honey buzzards, photographed by Jeremy Gates.

It was of great delight earlier this year (and a slight pang of jealousy) to receive a few photos from local licensed bird ringer Jeremy Gates.

Honey buzzard chick, photographed by Jeremy Gates.

Ringing birds of prey at nest sites requires a special licence, and for this Jeremy had been called out to a county beyond Surrey to a nest site to ring two young honey buzzards that had been found. Perks of the job one might say!

On August 22, serendipity shone my way while on one of my regular visits to Worplesdon’s Whitmoor Common.

Kingfisher, Brook Pond, Whitmoor Common.

Taking photos of fauna and flora along the way to find things for my next report, I decided to visit Brook Pond, just the other-side of the boardwalk in the hope of capturing a few pictures of a kingfisher I had recently seen there.

Juvenile common buzzard, Whitmoor Common.

Setting myself up in a secluded area I sat a while in anticipation. A nearby juvenile common buzzard was now becoming more mobile and could occasionally be heard calling within the surrounding woodland.

While watching and waiting, and taking in the ambient sounds about me, a buzzard came into view in the blue sky over the water.

First I dismissed it to be the young juvenile. But there was something about it that didn’t fit my assumption.

Adult male honey buzzard, Brook Pond, Whitmoor Common.

On taking a series of photos as it flew over the tree-line and the pond, I soon realised, by its narrow, protruding head and its colouration, it was indeed a honey buzzard.

And although having seen less than just a handful in my years of birdwatching in Surrey, it was by far my best photos and closest views to date.

In a conversation with Jeremy later that day, I learned from his advanced knowledge it was an adult male, judging it to be about three to four years old.

Adult male honey buzzard, Brook Pond, Whitmoor Common.

Although pictures were not clear enough to distinguish the lettering it was evident it had been ringed, and quite possibly by Jeremy a few years back.

It was almost certainly making its return journey back to Africa, hopefully having had a successful breeding season of its own.

The ‘avian gods’ for sure, were looking down on me once again!

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Responses to Birdwatcher’s Diary No.286 “Tell ’em About the ‘Honey’ Mummy!” A Summer Special

  1. James Sellen Reply

    August 28, 2023 at 9:41 pm

    Excellent find by Malcolm Fincham – and great photos! Well done.

  2. Mat Reply

    August 30, 2023 at 3:24 pm

    Hi Malcolm, it was lovely to bump into you the other evening. These are some great photos!
    Hopefully see you down whotnoor soon!


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