Monday, 16 July 2012

Lets Twitch Again.... we did last summer, Chubby Checker in 1960....but his was the twist not a twitch.

Common Spotted Orchid. John Bateman.

Thanks to JB for the CSO image taken at the location for these flowers annually on the outskirts of Lancaster where this year there are a healthy number of spikes.

The Montagu's Harrier. 

If KT ever asks me 'should we' and the question includes the word 'birds' the answer is always YES. And so yesterday we set off to Champion Moor a couple of miles to the east of Slaidburn to stake out - a flask of coffee and some butties included - in the hope the adult male Montagu's Harrier currently in the area would oblige. Unfortunately it didn't and 3.5 hours later we set off once more, this time home to Lancaster a couple of miles to the east of Morecambe having suffered a 'dip' in twitching jargon. The bird was last seen on Champion Moor at around 11.00am which was 1.5 hours prior to our arrival and not reported again. 

The Montagu's Harrier (MH) is a stunning bird, in particular - as is nearly always the case - the male which at first sight is similar to the equally stunning male Hen Harrier. The MH had its heyday in the mid-twentieth century and bred in Ireland and Anglesey, and north to Scotland, but no evidence has been achieved of nesting ever having occurred in Lancashire, though there is an interesting record of a female shot in Bowland - nothing new there - in 1889, this bird was reported to have had a brood patch making the shooting of this bird an even bigger tragedy than it was that it was ever shot in the first place. 

In the late nineteenth century the MH bred more or less regularly in or around areas of Cornwall, Hampshire, Kent, and East Anglia though probably not more than 20 pairs. Through the  mid-twentieth century numbers seemed to have increased to 40-50 pairs. A pair bred in Ireland in 1971 but not since, although the species continues to be recorded there on a regular basis.

There are some interesting colour ringing of nestlings records showing that these birds return close to their natal site, often being paired with un-ringed individuals suggesting that new birds are entering the breeding pool from elsewhere in Europe, limiting the possible effects of inbreeding in an otherwise small population. Most overseas recoveries are from France, although there is one recovery from Senegal at the western end of the MH's wintering grounds in the savannahs of Africa, India, and Sri Lanka. 

As I publish this post the Montagu's Harrier has again been seen today in the Champion Moor area at 9.30am. 

This is a good image of the male Montagu's Harrier showing to good effect the difference of underwing marks compared to the male Hen Harrier Montagu's Harrier by Phil Boardman 


Warren Baker said...

Thought I had a monties a few weeks back pete, but it turned out to be ''just'' a hen harrier :-)

news said...

Pete The joys of twitchingJWB.

Pete Woodruff said...

Keep looking as I know you always do, its the element of surprise that keeps us all fired up isn't it Warren.

John....yes you're right, the joys of twitching, but have to say I'd liked to have seen this brilliant harrier, and we did take the 'coffee and butties' as suggested to you on 'another website'.