The weather forecast was cloudy and dull, but the next few days looked like more rain moving in so Sarah and I decided to make do with a grey but dry day and head to the Ouse Washes RSPB. Our target was a female Northern Harrier that was present. The journey was disrupted to say the least due to complete stand still on the A14, which we just about avoided being stuck in, so we made our way around the back roads getting there just before midday. The Northern Harrier had been reported that morning so we were eager to get to the hides. I knew that the views would be distant at best but hoped for better views than I had of the Northern Harrier in Norfolk the other year.
It wasn't long before we had a distant view of the Northern', it quartered the grass fields to the far side of the washes. But you immediately noticed the orange underparts to the bird, it really stood out. It kept to the rear of the washes and would regularly disappear behind a small wooded area. There was a ringtail Hen Harrier showing as well as a few Marsh Harriers. The hide had a nice flypast from a small group of Whooper swans whilst awaiting the Northern to reappear.
When the female Hen Harrier appeared it seemed the Northern Harrier would not be too far away. These next shots are distant cropped in shots but show the interaction between the Northern and Hen Harrier.
They spent a lot of time in a grass field, where they would appear to play hunt together.
You can see the Hen Harrier below (left) carrying what we all thought was a rat but turned out to be a clump of dark weedy grass.
The Northern Harrier then would fly in and steal the clump of grass as the Hen Harrier would then land close by.
It was great to watch the play interaction between the two birds. Even when they left to quarter the nearby marshes, they would return to the field and restart the playing.
At one time it brought an interested Marsh Harrier in, thinking they had prey it pounced towards the Northern harrier before departing after finding there was no food.
On just the one occasion whilst the Northern was chasing the Hen Harrier, did it venture closer for a couple of seconds, it was at this time I cursed myself for leaving my bean bag in the car, but I managed to grab a couple of shots whilst resting the lens on the hide window. Compared to the Norfolk bird, this time I had good views of this lovely Harrier, and a new species for Sarah too. The weather and light was drawing in and it felt colder, the Harrier didn't look like coming closer and as it disappeared behind the wood again I headed off home, hoping the traffic had cleared.