This was a vintage day for raptors in an amazing frosted and misty environment of grassland, copses, arable, scrub, coverts, deep ditches and the heavily embanked River Alt – almost reminiscent of the Fens. Richard and I started off with a female Bullfinch diving into willow thicket and a Sparrowhawk gliding in towards Sefton Church as Curlew poked about in rough grassland on the other side of the Alt. Walking northwards on top of the river bank a female Hen Harrier was seen flying low back and forth over the reeds and scrub to the west, and then another further on behind Lunt. Pressing on we had several Kestrels and Common Buzzards, the latter on the ground as much as in tall shrubs. We turned right at the sluices and along the main ditch to Carr Wood. Scanning the landscape on its north side a long-winged bird was seen approaching – at first we thought it to be a Grey Heron but it suddenly turned, showing chestnut and white and a forked tail – a Red Kite! It settled in a shrub and very close by was a Peregrine on a fence post. Meanwhile, to our right towards Lydiate another ringtail was quartering a field of dense stubble.
Retracing our footsteps along the Alt, and in sunshine at last, we were surprised to see a Barn Owl approaching us – it flew close by and then made a regular to and fro survey of the rank vegetation, legs dangling. It eventually returned south and quickly disappeared, probably via a broken window into an old brick pump house. Back near our start point 10 birders with large cameras were gathered around an area of reeds and as the light began fading Short-eared Owls started flying about, offering very good views – 4 of them. One came particularly close, screeched and went for a female Kesrel perched near the top of a spindly tree. A fitting conclusion.