Harrier Potty and the Deathly Fallow

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Sunday, 23 January 2011 17:41

Most stupid blog title so far? I think so. Another farm survey in West Sussex and the surprises still keep coming. I disturbed a herd of deer at close range, they then flushed a flock of Wood Pigeon. As I was counting them, through my bins, I got onto a distant ringtail Hen Harrier that flew towards me and plopped down in a stubble field. As I dropped my binoculars I realised that the last Fallow Deer in the herd was a beautiful white thing that had just ran straight past me and I missed a great photo opportunity. Never mind. I didn't get on to the harrier again as I walked over the stubble field but I did see the sum total of 8 Skylarks. This site has the lowest total numbers of Skylarks of all the farms I  am visiting, I've never seen more than 10 there (the other five sites rarely have less than 100 and often many more).
About an hour later and I caught up with the white Fallow Deer and got this distant shot. I can't believe how much it looks like a statue in this photograph. I saw very few birds for the next few hours and then suddenly flushed a male Hen Harrier! Then the ringtail came back on the scene and the two birds started scrapping, rising higher and higher and disappearing from view. I then saw a distant Red Kite and a Hawfinch landed in the tree I was standing under!

Just when I thought it was over with the harriers, the male came back for a final flyby (top photo). So lots of good birds but very few of the target farmland species. Not a single Linnet for example. Sadly the closest shot of the male Hen Harrier occurred at exactly the moment it presented its minimum surface area to me. See if you can make it out in this shot.
Embarrassing ticks included the spider Harpactea hombergi and the Common Pill Woodlouse Armadillidium vulgare. Both common things that I am sure I have seen before but have never recorded or key out. That puts me on 3065.

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