Monday, 18 April 2016

Montagu's Harrier

Had a wonderful day on Exmoor with the girls yesterday, but I won't lie when I got a text from Phil saying he had a 'very interesting ringtail harrier on Colyford Common' I became concerned...

I was clearly over thinking/worrying, but the addition of the word VERY got me panicking.  Surely this is hinting that Pallid could be a possibility!!??.... I can't tell you how thankful I was when Phil soon texted again saying it was a Monties - phew!  This is still a patch mega mind, only the third ever record, but as it was already safely tucked away on my patch list I was able to relax and we continued to enjoy our day.

I was amazed to hear it was still kicking about when we returned home (and had in fact been around since 2pm!), so as it hadn't been seen to leave the valley I was up at 6 today hoping for some Monties action.  I didn't go to one of the usual spots, but hid myself in a hedge on the edge of the marsh hoping for some close up video opportunities  One male Gadwall, three singing Sedge Warblers and two hours later I was completely freezing my t*ts off and no one had seen the Harrier.  

Luckily for me Tim, Karen and Dave H (who had been there since 05:50!) stayed put and at 09:20 were rewarded when it appeared out of the exact spot it was seen to drop in to at 17:40 yesterday.  I by this point was in Ottery St. Mary, so after a rather disappointing breakfast and a hurried (by me!) shopping trip, I was heading back for the Axe and got to Boshill Cross at about 10:45.  And there it was...

What an absolute beaut! The above video clips were taken during the hour and 15 minutes that I enjoyed with it, and it showed so so well (annoyingly often circling around the hedge I was hidden in earlier in the day though!). My last snippet was the last we saw of it, it gained a bit of height and flew off purposely north east.

Sadly I came just as the Red Kite gave up chasing it, but thankfully (and very unusually) the Red Kite remained.  This amazingly is the first Red Kite I've ever seen perched up on the patch, and I reckon I've seen at least 35 Kites here!

Back to the stunning Harrier - oh what a treat! I have to say I was shocked that it stayed in our little valley for so long, the previous two Monties were fly throughs, the valley doesn't even hold Hen Harriers for more than ten minutes!  Date wise it's quite an early one really, which makes me think it could be an overshoot (what with the Hoopoes and Subalpine Warbler on Portland) as opposed to a returning UK breeder.  Am surprised not to have seen more Devon birders up here today really, it's not often one is twitchable in this county (Devon tick for Dave H).

To finish off this post, a couple of snap shots taken from my video footage (which I'm dead pleased with, quality not great but they're clear enough) with a few comments as to what makes it a Monty and not a Hen...

  • Long and narrow winged appearance with the wing tip being made up of three distinctive long primaries, four or five in Hen Harrier. 
  • Very narrow white rump band, much broader in Hen Harrier.
  • Distinctive black bar along the base of the secondaries, absent on Hen Harrier.
  • Obvious dark bands across bases of primaries, less obvious in Hen Harrier.
  • Obvious pale patch on scapulars, often present in Hen Harrier but not as striking.

  • Rich orange tones to the course underpart streaking, with the underwing streaking reminiscent almost of an adult male Monties.
  • Broad pale bar between dark bars on secondaries, on a Hen Harrier the pale and dark bars should be of similar widths.
  • Again wing tip clearly made up of three primaries.

Our first proper goodie of spring 2016 - hopefully there will be many more to come...


  1. Those still captures from the video are great! And interesting footage of the Kite too. Nice one.

  2. Cheers buddy. Yes considering the distance, the non stop movement of the subject and the dull light, I'm really pleased with how they've come out.

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