Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Hen Harriers

The 24th of January 1982 was the date I saw my first Hen Harrier, a ringtail, drifting through the small clump of pines and quartering the hillside to the west of Camp Hill on Ashdown Forest. I still recall my excitement at the memory, now some 35 years in the past, and the species has been my favorite raptor ever since. The festive period has enabled me to get out and do my first WBS of the winter on my BBS transect so I managed to escape the pitfalls of sitting indoors or last minute shopping and instead, plodded around the patch on Christmas Eve. Happy days indeed, and made even more so, by seeing the ringtail Hen Harrier pictured left which had been reported earlier in the week, first quartering the flood between Lookers and Herstmonceux church and then over Horseeye where it consorted with the 2cym bird. Now, it may be difficult to believe given the picture left, but I did have this bird close on a couple of occasions and have put this photo in purely to emphasise the paleness of this birds outer tail feathers which make it very distinctive. In reality at close range the feathers can be seen to be extremely pale buff toned. I cannot recall seeing a bird with this striking a tail pattern. The 2cym bird has been regular on my forays recently including Christmas and Boxing day and on one occasion was watched mobbing a Kestrel, however Short-eared Owls have been tough to come by with only one present to my knowledge which I saw on the 17th and again on the 24th, on both days not until the light was fading fast.

The Black Guillemot has been performing well and entertaining birders and non-birders alike with its preening and diving activities in the clear Sovereign harbour water. Today (Boxing day) it was pottering around the inner harbour at lunchtime and there was a wp Guillemot (pictured below) just outside the lock gates.
Also in the inner harbour was the regular Common Seal, pictured below, which continues to attract shoppers with its curiosity.
Elsewhere locally Arlington reservoir has held some quality birds in the form of a 1st winter Great Northern Diver that I caught up with on the 21st, 22nd, and 24th, 3 Black-tailed Godwit that I eventually managed to see on the 22nd and 23rd, and a 1cy Glaucous Gull on the 21st that I failed to see, although I did manage to see an adult Yellow-legged Gull and adult Mediterranean Gull in the gull roost on the 23rd thanks to RJFs' diligence, and a wp ad Mediterranean Gull on the 21st and 22nd.
The levels are full of birds at the moment with at least 4 regular Marsh Harriers to sit alongside the Skydancers and Short Eared Owl, a Great White Egret on the 15th December near Lookers, many flocks of Lapwing, Fieldfare, and Redwing. If you visit please take care as the paths are getting sticky and deep but above all enjoy the spectacle.

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