Pallid Harrier, Whitendale, Bowland

WHAT A WELCOME HOME THAT WAS! I got into WIFI range again yesterday in Houston Airport in Texas and was stunned to read news of a Pallid Harrier on my home patch in Bowland. After a relatively quiet month in the UK while I have been away in the US I was pleased not to have missed much until I read this. However, after a nervous flight home, happily I was watching it this evening with my Bowland birding friend Mark Varley. It is a bird we have often talked about as a possibility for the local fells, particularly with the increase in records in the UK/Western Europe in recent years but it still came as a shock. Even better that it is a male holding territory! It is a sign of the times that there was only one other person watching it this evening with me and Mark and we enjoyed some very nice views, although a little out of DSLR range as it quartered the hillside below the stone man in Whitendale. It even did a couple of sky dancing loops, upside down at the top of the loop while giving a high pitched chattering call. It also harassed a buzzard, which ventured within its air space, the cumbersome buzzard was quickly seen off by this tiny but aggressive ball of feathers. Interesting that it has chosen the same hillside that the Eagle Owls first used as a nest site and this was also a traditional nest site for Hen Harriers for many years previously. It must be an attractive situation. Dunsop Valley and Whitendale were alive this evening with Ring Ouzel, Common Cuckoo, Common Stonechat and Willow Warblers on the hillsides and White-throated Dipper and Common Sandpiper along the stream. A curlew sang its wonderful bubbling song in the background as the harrier graced the valley. Wonderful stuff! Massive thanks to the RSPB for deciding that the news of such a rare bird should to be broadcast as it may yet breed (even as a mixed pair with a Hen Harrier is a possibility). They would have been justified to keep it quiet and special thanks to the finder James Bray. He's already on the shortlist for my hero of the year award! Here's hoping that many folks will be able to enjoy the harrier over the coming days just like the eagle owls [the hike to the 'watchpoint' takes around one hour at a reasonable pace but is mostly on the flat].

Pallid Harrier versus Common Buzzard. No contest!

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