Indoors was the place to be this weekend. The weather has brought a constant gale from the west, with frequent hail showers 'machine gunning' the windows at regular intervals. On top of that, I wasn't feeling my usual perky self, so I've been catching up on some reading.
Fortuitously, this afternoon, it meant that I was sat in the lounge, book on lap, taking in the natural history of far-flung and warmer climes. A movement outside the window made me look up. A large bird had been flying low past the house and had glided over a field gate, before disappearing from sight. I had thought it was quite dark in appearance, but the light wasn't great and I only saw the bird for a fleeting second as it flew away from me.
Raven, maybe? Seemed bigger than a Rook or a Hooded Crow.
Curious as to where whatever it was had gone, I made my way to the window, but was unable to see it. Hmmm, odd. It had definitely gone to ground in a ploughed field just after the gate. Before I could think of moving to another window for a different angle on the area, the bird took to the air again (from a position behind a concrete gate post - gah!). It swooped over another fence into a pasture, gliding along for several metres before alighting in the shelter of some grass tussocks.
It was very not a Raven.
It was a rather handsome male Hen Harrier.
As soon as I thought it would remain where it was for a while, I felt able to risk taking my eyes off it and dug out my camera. The harrier had obviously made a kill and now set about plucking and devouring it. Joined at the window by Our Lass and her bins, we watched the harrier feeding for half an hour, through a hail shower and fading light. My assumption was that it had caught its prey during the initial swoop into the ploughed field, though I couldn't be sure it didn't arrive with it. This meant that talk of prey ID revolved around Starling and Rock Dove. The one flaw in this argument was the total lack of a flock of said birds during the initial encounter. We tried not to think about what else it might be.
When the harrier had feasted sufficiently, it took off and flew west, seemingly oblivious to the gale. How do they do that?! Our Lass and I looked at each other for a moment, each considering their next move, but I didn't think that there was any chance of her donning outdoor gear and pootling into a muddy field to retrieve evidence.
Oh well, me it is, then.
Did I mention it was blowing a hoolie and hailing?
Having located the crime scene, I must apologise for the quality of the image, but it wasn't until I was back indoors that I realised how shoddy it was. However, I was not going out again.
My earlier concerns appeared realistic, the assemblage of feathers looked rather wadery. Back home, I laid out my hurried selection on a bench and deployed a ruler.
Between ID guides and the web, it certainly looked as though this used to be a Snipe.
Our Lass is not available for comment...