Saturday, 4 March 2017

Pallid Harrier performs

4 March 2017

Egmere and New Holkham

Last Friday a probable Pallid Harrier was reported from Egmere. As Egmere is just a stones throw away from the Hen Harrier roost at Warham Greens I immediately thought if there was a Pallid Harrier in the area it would surely be roosting there in the evenings. With no reports from Warham on Friday I could not resist an early start. I was there not long after dawn, and not long after Eddie. He had seen an early departing Hen Harrier and over the next couple of hours we saw another three ringtails, one of which showed really well along the edge of the Saltmarsh. We also saw a close Merlin, 8 Bewick's Swan flew east, 2 Marsh Harrier, a Kestrel, a Barn Owl and a Mediterranean Gull. However there was no sign of a Pallid Harrier, so I did a short drive around the lanes to Egmere and back - nothing.

I returned to Warham in the late afternoon, seeing 3 grey male, and 4-5 ringtail Hen Harrier, 4 Marsh Harrier, 2 Merlin, a Kestrel and 3 Spoonbill, but again nothing resembling a Pallid Harrier.

I didn't try Sunday morning, being confident it hadn't come into roost on Saturday, but was back Sunday evening. A 2nd winter Glaucous Gull came off the beach and flew onto the Saltmarsh, a Sparrowhawk, 2 Merlin, a Peregrine, 7 Marsh Harrier, a Buzzard, a Kestrel, 3 grey male and 4 ringtail Hen Harrier were all seen. One of the ringtails was a juvenile that showed an apricot wash to the underparts, little streaking on the belly, strong facial markings and a weak collar. We had good views and it was definitely a Hen, but could this have been the bird reported from Egmere....?

However on Monday news came through that the Pallid Harrier had been photographed and those photos confirmed the ID as Pallid. During the week it was seen occasionally and mainly around Egmere and New Holkham. 

So first thing this morning I headed down the lane towards Egmere. As I reached the end near Crabbe Castle Farm a bird of prey was flying along the ridge to my right. Glancing over I saw a long, thin winged raptor with a long, drooping and apparently forked tail - I assumed it was a Red Kite and decided to pull up to view it. As I raised my bins I was somewhat taken aback to see the Red Kite had the plumage of a Pallid Harrier! I grabbed the camera and raced further up the lane hoping to intercept it. I managed a few shots in the gloom before it flew over the B1105. I followed it over, but it switched back and by the time I'd turned back around and got across the road it had vanished.

After 15 minutes searching the lanes I drove back down the Egmere lane and stopped at a suitable vantage point. As I scanned the distant hillside and valley I saw something in the distant field. Through the scope I could see it was the harrier and after a while it flew back towards me across the fields and over the hedge. It led me a merry dance for the next 30 minutes or so, during which time I even found a female Hen Harrier perched in the hedge, before I refound it heading back towards Crabbe Castle. I got ahead of it predicting its path. As I got out of the car and walked over to the opening the harrier came through it right past me and away over the B1105 - not sure who was most surprised.

Over the road I located it on the ground, sat next to a Marsh Harrier. Suddenly the Marsh Harrier took flight and the Pallid pursued, harried it until the much larger Marsh dropped its prey, which the Pallid picked up and took away to a nearby field. 

After eating it the Pallid flew down the valley over a hedge, but I soon located it sitting in a stubble field. Over the next 2 hours it gave brilliant scope views on the ground, eating some carrion, sat with a female Hen Harrier and mobbed by a Merlin. With several Red Kite, Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk the raptor spectacle continued.

At lunchtime we had a short walk from Walsey Hills to Salthouse seeing a Pale-bellied Brent Goose among the flock, 2 Stonechat, a hunting Peregrine over the marsh and a Kestrel.

Late afternoon I was back at Warham Greens. The 2nd winter Glaucous Gull flew east along the beach, a Spoonbill was seen distantly on the marsh, a Barn Owl flew out to East Hills being mobbed on the way out by a Herring Gull and attacked by a Hen Harrier on its return, 2 Merlin, 2 Peregrine, 3 female and a grey male Hen Harrier, 3 Marsh Harrier and 4 Buzzard. We also had a group of 6 Stonechat move west along the flotsam line.

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