Valley of the Lost Raptors

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday, 20 September 2011 21:07

I woke up early this morning and read through emails stating that the problem harrier at Burpham had been confirmed as a juvenile Pallid Harrier. I was just thinking that I should have gone at the weekend when I got a text from Jake Everitt saying he had just seen it. Before I new it I was on the A27. I figured I would have about 1 hr and 45 mins before it would make me late for work.

It had not shown for about three hours and I was starting to get that dipping feeling. I really wanted to avoid that feeling but we were getting a relentless display of raptors. In addition, more Grey Partridge than I have seen or heard all year. The classy male Hen Harrier that landed in front of us to eat a vole (in rather large chunks) that we had just seen it catch, was beginning to feel like a booby prize. A welcome booby prize but still a booby prize.

I had ten minutes to go and I spotted a brown harrier heading towards us from over the horizon and as it came closer (being mobbed by a Merlin) it was clear that this was the Pallid Harrier! It then came close, landing in the field in front of us, then quartering along the hedge and showing off all its ID features. This really is a stunning bird, made all the more exciting by how surprised I was by this. I have seen juvenile Montagu's Harrier before but it wasn't quite as vibrant and contrasting as this bird is. I asked Matt Eade if he would mind if I showed some of his pictures off on my blog and he was kind enough to forward them to me. Have a look at Matt's blog, Seaford Birding, for more of his wildlife photography. Thanks Matt! Now, after that, the twitch is definitely back on. I've already been to look at Britain's smallest vascular plant this evening but that will have to wait for tomorrow...

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