Sunday, October 09, 2011

Harrier Quest

Hen Harrier (Library Image)
Reports of Hen Harrier (♀Ringtail) at Brandon Marsh Saturday evening had me arriving just before dawn and meeting up with a few of the guys from the conservation team.

The original plan was to make straight for the Newlands area where the bird had been reported. However, that was soon overtaken by a phone call from Jeff Hood, who'd arrived a little earlier, and was reporting a large bird of prey on Sheepfield, too dark to identify at this stage.

As we met up with Jeff it wasn't long before a firm ID on Short Eared Owl quartering the field, great views from the Railway Bridge and probably my 1st encounter at Brandon with an autumn visitor.

From here it was straight on to Newlands and our continued quest for Hen Harrier, on route encountering our first Redwing of the autumn with 3 over. Positioning ourselves strategically at the no-entry sign, which offers good views of the reed beds, we began our vigil. During our two hour observation more Redwing, ending up with around 30, a constant passage of Skylark, plus 2 Barn Owl, Redpoll, Siskin, 2 Green Sandpiper, 2 Snipe and Sparrowhawk.

1st Redwings of the Autumn!
After two hours and no sign a decision to move around to the Carlton Hide and you guessed it, within 50-yards of leaving our position a phone call came through to inform us of a sighting, almost simultaneously as the bird flew right over our heads. A quick jog back offered brief but good views as the bird dropped down into the reed bed, quest complete and a first for me at Brandon!

A Chiffchaff was heard calling along the Central Marsh Path. East Marsh Pool had the usual selection of Shoveler, Teal, Tufted, Gadwall and around 350 Lapwing, plus the first Common Gulls I've encountered at Brandon for a while added to the several Lesser-black backed, Black-headed and earlier Herring Gull.

Another look for the Hen Harrier at Carlton Hide produced 2 House Martin over, a good looking ♂Stonechat at the base of the big dead tree, Water Rail and Kingfisher. Several more views of the Hen Harrier (to distant to photograph) ended when the bird flew high and to the East, probably on it's way!! The final bird of an excellent visit was a lone Grey Wagtail which overflew the volunteers car park.