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Hen Harrier, Portbury Wharf

Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve, Somerset

The hides are working! And one immediate benefit is that chewing the fat with other birders becomes far more likely. So it was that I bumped into Chris Stone in the hide overlooking the main pool with its newly flattened island, as pictured. This has already attracted 62, according to Chris’s count, lapwings.

While he was counting, I was scanning and picked up a buzzard with a truly pale face. We remarked that buzzards are so variable and Chris joked about trying to turn it into a rough-legged. It obviously wasn’t, even with our crappy view of its back.

We went back to swapping news when the bird flew and immediately drew the attention of gulls and spooked the waders. Strange.

It still looked all buzzard, even down to good, solid carpal patches. Then it banked and a contrasting pale rump gave it away. Female hen harrier. That explained the other birds’ reaction. That explained what she was doing: I’ve not seen buzzards in that part of the reserve and certainly not flying that low over the reeds and water.

I don’t think we would have got the bird if we hadn’t been sat in the hide, nattering. We speculated on what else could now be possible – water rail, passage waders, yellow-legged gull, water pipit and so on. As it was, the harrier was a new tick for my Wharf list, Avon, Somerset (staying neck-and-neck at 152) and even my car-free life list, which now stands at 142.

The next hide on, which overlooks the spartina marsh, gave me better, confirmatory views of the bird. She flew by and onto a sapling, with two magpies in attendance, and I could more easily pick out the head pattern and the contrasting coverts, which buzzards don’t have. She loped off again, and again all the other birds freaked out. That’s spectacle for you.

1 comment to Hen Harrier, Portbury Wharf

  • Andy Gibb

    Hm, this picture, which is of the first occurrence, does make the bird look all buzzard again…

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