So, that was pretty insane. Eleonara's Falcon, what a bird. So yeah all in all a good day.
(It looks like the image quality on here has been destroyed by google so my bad for that).
(Also I have no clue if I'm spelling this birds name right but oh well)
When news broke of the Eleonara's falcon remaining in Worth and being joined by two Red-Footed Falcon on Friday as I left my first A level exam, I immediately planned to head down on Saturday. No surprise that plan went to shit pretty quick with all the trains being cancelled in Ashford. Not the end of the world seeing as I hopped on a different train to Rye where I had summer-plumage Black-Necked Grebe and a few other nice birds.
But anyway on Monday morning I left for Sandwich again with my brother, this time things went far more smoothly and by 12 we there. Funnily enough the train passes through the field where the Falcon is present so we could see all the birders watching it as we passed but of course couldn't see the bird itself. From there it was an half hour or so walk to the car park at Worth. From here I could make out a single large dark falcon at a decent distance on a post. Before I could take some photos it burst into flight moving even further away from us with a second bird, a smaller falcon with an orange head: the Red-Footed Falcon! Unfortunately it was only a split second view.
We headed round the track towards the field under surprising amount of rain which I worried would cause the birds to seek shelter and disappear. However when we arrived the Eleonara's was right there. Sure it was some distance away facing the other way in the rain but it was an Eleonara's Falcon!
The bird didn't seem in a hurry to move so I passed the time watching the more active Hobbies darting over the fields. Then without warning, after a good half hour of inactivity the Eleonara's and two Hobby simultaneously launched into action began to hunt over a single small pool together despite some light rain. We were all able to spend a good half an hour watching the three birds hunt together and get some incredible views of Falcon showing a wide range of behaviour and even calling?? Not sure if anyone else can confirm that, maybe it was a different bird idk
Despite not being significantly larger than Hobbies it had a far more powerful and longer-winged flight with slower wing beats and a much more powerful physique. But it still shot around quickly alongside the Hobbies, I don't need to describe how they fly seeing as if you're reading this you probably already know that they're incredible.
When the sun eventually came out the Falcon got gradually bolder over the course of an hour or so until it was making regular hunting passes metres over our heads. landing in nearby bushes and even doing a sort of loop-the-loop. To make things better whenever you turned to the other field you could the watch the Hobby doing it's own hunting. Other decent birds included three Med Gull high overhead and a heard only cuckoo both being year ticks for me.
After a while someone pointed me to the speck half a mile away that was the Red-Foot on telegraph wires so we headed up that way. After a short walk we came across some more birders along a road who pointed us to the bird again and we were able to watch it through their scope (thanks for that!). The Red-Foot was far less active than the other Falcons but eventually took flight, mostly making short dives for prey or flying between telegraph poles. For a brief few moments it even perched fairly nearby (although nothing compared to the Eleonara's). It was a weird experience to be sitting on the side of a road in the English countryside, at this point alone except for my brother, and having a Red-Footed Falcon flying around all to myself. Red-Footed Falcon has been my dream UK bird for almost 2 years now so it was brilliant to have this 1st year bird at last. It generally remained fairly inactive and distant but occasionally gave some incredible bursts of flight. Four Buzzards and two Kestrel drifted around the field too as it got increasingly warm. Retracing our steps we didn't see Eleonara's again but saw my first Avocet chicks! Awesome little birds.
I had gone to Worth with Red-Footed Falcon as my primary target being my dream bird and the Eleonara's an added bonus, just sort of a big Hobby. But the Eleonara's stole the show by far and exceeded every expectation on views, behaviour and appearance. It really is an unbelievable bird and far more than just a big Hobby. The overall vibe of the bird was very different to that of a Hobby or a Peregrine and was it's own unique bird clear of a peregrine falcon by far (still doesn't beat Hobby, nothing does). Eleonara's was also my first "mega" and my 200th bird. The Red-Footed was great too and an incredible lifer. I'm really pleased with how the photos turned out and are some of my favourite photos I've ever taken of a bird especially given I'm shooting with a 70-300mm which normally wouldn't have enough zoom for a bird like this.
If anyone needs any help on how to get there by train give me a shout. It is a bit pricey but there are a few ways around paying full price. The walk from the station is very simple and shouldn't be a problem, there's a public footpath for most of the way.